Big Boys Don’t Cry: How “Big Boy” Provisions Can Help Hedge Fund Managers Avoid Liability for Insider Trading Violations

Various factors recently have increased the sensitivity of hedge fund managers, lawyers, compliance professionals, investors and others to insider trading concerns.  Those factors include, but are not limited to: insider trading allegations against Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam and others; remarks delivered by SEC Enforcement Division Director Robert Khuzami on November 23 indicating that the Division will increase its enforcement activity with respect to insider trading by hedge funds, and in particular will focus on insider trading in the derivatives context; and press reports that the SEC has sent at least three dozen subpoenas to hedge fund managers and broker-dealers during November 2009 relating to communications in connection with healthcare industry transactions closed during the past three years and certain retail industry transactions.  See “For Hedge Fund Managers in a Heightened Enforcement Environment, Internal Investigations Can Help Prevent or Mitigate Criminal and Civil Charges,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 2, No. 47 (Nov. 25, 2009).  In light of the increased regulatory scrutiny of activity that may constitute insider trading, hedge fund lawyers, compliance professionals and others are re-examining how and where to draw the line between permissible and impermissible information, and how to police that line effectively.  See “How Can Hedge Fund Managers Distinguish Between Market Color and Inside Information?,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 2, No. 46 (Nov. 19, 2009); “How Can Hedge Fund Managers Talk to Corporate Insiders Without Violating Applicable Insider Trading Laws?,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 2, No. 43 (Oct. 29, 2009).  In addition, hedge fund industry participants are refocusing on the promise and limits of tools they may employ to prevent or mitigate allegations of trading on material, nonpublic information.  One such tool is the so-called “Big Boy” provision, or disclaimer of reliance.  In our November 19, 2009 issue, we published the first part of a two-part analysis of Big Boy provisions in the hedge fund context by Brian S. Fraser and Tamala E. Newbold, Partner and Staff Attorney, respectively, at Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP.  That first part discussed the duty to disclose material, nonpublic information (or refrain from trading) and the differences between the federal securities laws and New York common law on that issue, in particular, the “superior knowledge” trigger for the duty to disclose under New York law which has no federal counterpart.  See “When Do Hedge Fund Managers Have a Duty to Disclose Material, Nonpublic Information?,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 2, No. 46 (Nov. 19, 2009).  This second part expands on that analysis, focusing in depth on the enforceability of Big Boy provisions in securities and non-securities transactions, with a special emphasis on the enforceability of such provisions under New York law in the context of trading in bank loans.  In addition, this part includes a detailed discussion of, and a comprehensive review of the caselaw relating to, specific steps that hedge fund managers can take to increase the likelihood that a court will enforce a Big Boy provision.

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