Steven A. Cohen, the billionaire investor whose career was nearly derailed by a government crackdown on insider trading, is days away from once again being able to manage other people’s money.
Whether investors will hand over their money is another question.
A two-year ban that barred Mr. Cohen from running a hedge fund because he had failed to properly police the actions of a trader at his former firm, SAC Capital Advisors, expires at year’s end.
Mr. Cohen, 61, has been patiently planting the seeds for a comeback. He registered a new fund, Stamford Harbor Capital, in 2016. He hired a marketing firm to meet with prospective investors. And he showed up in Las Vegas this spring for one of the hedge fund industry’s most prominent conferences.
Mr. Cohen was a singular figure on Wall Street. His estimated $13 billion net worth, love of big homes and lavish spending on modern art, combined with his firm’s envelope-pushing tactics, all shaped a public image of a highflying hedge fund manager.
The goal now is to move past SAC Capital, which pleaded guilty to securities fraud charges and paid $1.8 billion in fines and civil penalties, and to capitalize on Mr. Cohen’s pre-scandal reputation as one of the industry’s best stock pickers.
But his highly anticipated comeback is looking underwhelming so far.
The firm that is marketing his hedge-fund-in-waiting has received $2 billion to $4 billion in commitments from investors, said three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly. That is a far cry from the $11 billion Mr. Cohen ran at his family office the past two years.
And according to several industry consultants, some pension funds and institutional investors are wary about putting their money with Mr. Cohen, who remains tainted by the insider-trading scandal that engulfed him and his former hedge fund.
There is also anxiety, these consultants say, that Mr. Cohen’s new firm plans to charge higher-than-average fees and will not let some investors withdraw their money for at least three years. Others wonder if the trader’s best days are behind him.
“There’s a lot of noise and high fees,” said Richard C. Wilson, founder of Family Office Club, a professional association for family offices, which manage money for wealthy individuals. “If they haven’t invested with him before, I don’t think a lot of them will be clamoring to go in.”
When Mr. Wilson held a conference for about 300 investors in Miami in December, he said, Mr. Cohen and his new fund were barely discussed.
Powerful Wall Street institutions are taking a cautious approach, too.
JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, which will handle trades for the new firm, have not yet committed to offering their wealthy customers a chance to invest with Mr. Cohen’s new fund, according to two people familiar with each bank. Banks that serve as prime brokers to a hedge fund often give their best customers a chance to invest in that fund.
A number of past investors in SAC, including the private equity firm the Blackstone Group, declined to comment about whether they would give money to Mr. Cohen’s new firm.
Jonathan Gasthalter, a spokesman for Mr. Cohen, declined to comment.
During his two-year ban from the securities industry, Mr. Cohen hardly vanished.
He converted SAC into an $11 billion family office called Point72 Asset Management, which managed and traded much of his personal fortune. In many ways, Point72 resembled SAC, employing more than 1,000 people and using the same Stamford, Conn., offices.
Mr. Cohen has remained a fixture in the art world. A year ago, Forbes estimated that his art collection was worth $1 billion. Mr. Cohen has also donated hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals and a charity he established to support veterans’ health initiatives.
Stamford Harbor has not yet told investors or potential trading partners when it intends to formally open for business. It is not expected to begin officially taking in money from investors until February, two of the people said.
Under the terms of his 2016 settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Cohen will need to hire an independent consultant for Stamford Harbor once it begins accepting money from outside investors and if Mr. Cohen works there in a supervisory capacity. The consultant will have to stay in place for at least two years.
The settlement with the S.E.C. also required Mr. Cohen to keep an independent consultant at Point72 during the period he was banned. The consultant, Michael Considine, a lawyer with Seward & Kissel, did not respond to requests for comment. It’s unclear whether Mr. Considine will work with Stamford Harbor.
The timing of Mr. Cohen’s hedge fund reboot is inauspicious; many longtime managers have closed their hedge funds to run family offices instead.
Jesse Schraft, who advises three family offices on alternative investments, said his main concern with investing in new hedge funds was paying high fees at a time when performances across the industry have been uneven at best. He is also wary of investing with managers who focus on stocks at a time when stock market indexes keep hitting record highs.
For many people, Mr. Cohen’s performance will be evaluated against the high bars set by two of his former SAC associates who have outpaced many of their competitors.
Gabriel Plotkin’s Melvin Capital hedge fund is up just over 41 percent this year. Mr. Plotkin was one of the top portfolio managers at SAC before he left to open his own fund in 2014. Mr. Plotkin invests mainly in consumer stocks, and Mr. Cohen invested $200 million of his own money with his former trader.
Suvretta Capital Management, led by Aaron Cowen, another ex-SAC trader, is up 26 percent for the year.
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