Thursday, November 8, 2012
The SEC charged Walter A. Morales, a hedge fund manager in Baton Rouge, La., with defrauding investors by hiding millions of dollars in losses suffered during the financial crisis from investments tied to residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). The SEC alleges that Morales and his firm Commonwealth Advisors Inc. caused the hedge funds they managed to buy the lowest and riskiest tranches of a collateralized debt obligation (CDO) called Collybus. They sold mortgage-backed securities into the CDO at prices they had obtained four months earlier while knowing that the RMBS market had declined precipitously in the meantime. As the CDO investments continued to perform poorly, Morales instructed Commonwealth employees to conduct a series of manipulative trades between the hedge funds they advised (called cross-trades) in order to conceal a $32 million loss experienced by one of the funds in its Collybus investment. Morales and Commonwealth lied to investors about the amount and value of mortgage-backed assets held in the hedge funds, and they created phony internal documents to justify their false valuations.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, Commonwealth’s hedge fund clients included pension funds and individual investors.