According to news sources, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are investigating how the hedge fund Canarsie Capital lost nearly all of the $60 million capital in just three weeks of trading. The fund was run by Owen Li (Li), and Ken deRegt (deRegt). Canarsie Capital was named for the Brooklyn neighborhood where Li grew up and was launched in January 2013 and had offices in midtown Manhattan, New York. Li previously worked for Raj Rajaratnam’s (Rajaratnam) Galleon Group. Rajaratnam is currently serving an 11 year sentence following his May 2011 conviction on nine counts of securities fraud and five counts of conspiracy. The claims against him relate to $63.8 million in illicit profit from 2003 to 2009 by trading in stocks such as eBay Inc, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Google Inc. Li cofounded the Canarsie Capital with his former Stanford University roommate, Eric deRegt and Eric’s father who ran Morgan Stanley’s fixed-income business.
According to filings the minimum investment accepted from an outside investor in the fund was $1 million. At its peak, Canarsie Capital had managed around $98 million in assets and had some well-known contributors. Goldman Sachs was the fund’s prime broker and clears and settles trades for the hedge fund starting in the fall of 2014. The Goldman Sachs switch came after the fund was dropped in March 2014, by Morgan Stanley’s prime brokerage over concerns with the fund’s risk practices.
On January 20, 2015, Li, wrote an apology letter to investors telling them that he “engaged in a series of aggressive transactions” during the first three weeks of 2015 that resulted in losing all but $200,000 of the fund’s capital, a 99.7% loss. According to the letter, Li engaged in aggressive trading in an attempt to recuperate prior losses the fund suffered in the fund in December 2014. At this time it’s unclear what the trading strategy was that Li engaged in January of this year. The only details in the letter concerning the securities themselves are that they included “options with strike prices pegged to the broader market increasing in value” and “some direct positions.”