SAC's Cohen faces pressure but sticks with investing

By @ibtimes on

Steven A. Cohen's $13 billion fund firm is facing scrutiny from U.S. regulators but in a rare public appearance on Wednesday the hedge fund manager said he has no plans of quitting what he loves doing.

Investing is what I like to do, Cohen, 54, said in a one-on-one conversation on the stage of a ballroom packed with hedge fund managers and investors at the third annual SkyBridge Alternatives Conference here.

Hours after a jury in New York found former hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam guilty of insider trading, Cohen in Las Vegas addressed his firm's own controversy with insider trading.

He said that the firm has a strong compliance culture and is cooperating with prosecutors in their probe.

Two former SAC Capital employees have pleaded guilty earlier this year to insider trading while working for Cohen's firm. Reuters previously has reported that federal investigators have been investigating allegations of wrongful trading at SAC Capital for nearly four years.

But apart from that, Cohen said little about a topic that has preoccupied much of the $2 trillion hedge fund industry.

Instead, the man known for his hard-edged ability to read markets, gave the attendees a softer version of himself -- revealing little known details about the man who is envied for his long run of double-digit returns and often questioned about how he did it for so long.

Underscoring his determination to stay put -- for now, Cohen said that he has just lost 20 pounds, works out religiously, and plans to keep going. I'm going to continue to do what I'm doing.

Cohen talked about the culture at SAC where he said he is good at delegating and letting his teams come up with the next best trading ideas. But he also said that he retains a firm grip.

Nothing gets decided unless they throw it past me, he added.

While Cohen made his reputation as a stock picker, he said that he has learned new things and is now more heavily involved in currency trading and so-called macro investing which involves big bets on currencies, interest rates and commodities.

In terms of the markets, Cohen said the second half of the year may be decent with growth near 4 percent but he acknowledged being more concerned about 2012 when some of the government's stimulative aid programs stop.

Although he is known to drive himself and his staff hard, starting with Sunday night brainstorming sessions about investments, Cohen said he likes to spend Saturdays in a more leisurely fashion ever since a colleague whet his appetite for collecting art after seeing that person's Dutch Masters.

I thought those paintings are really kind of dark and ugly, Cohen recalled, remembering that he was quickly hooked on collecting lighter and brighter works instead. That has become a great way to spend a Saturday -- going down to the galleries.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst, editing by Bernard Orr)

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