California Appellate Court Affirms $19 Million Arbitration Award Against Russel Bernard, Former Principal of Hedge Fund and Private Equity Fund Manager Oaktree Capital Management

On February 22, 2010, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District affirmed a Los Angeles Superior Court order confirming an arbitration award against Russel S. Bernard, a former principal at hedge fund and private equity fund manager Oaktree Capital Management, L.P.  In an incentive fee dispute between Bernard and Oaktree, an arbitrator had found that Bernard breached his fiduciary duty to Oaktree when, in his role as fund manager, he stalled the launch of a new fund and appropriated an investment opportunity in order to form a competing private equity fund, Westport Capital Partners.  The arbitrator awarded Oaktree $12.3 million for the management fees it lost from the delayed venture, as well as $6.7 million in attorney’s fees, costs and interest; it also refused Bernard’s demand for payment of incentive fees based on his performance before his resignation.  The appellate court “affirm[ed] the award because [Bernard] did not satisfy the narrow grounds for judicial review of an arbitration award.”  We summarize the background of Oaktree’s action against Bernard and the California appellate court’s legal analysis.

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