Recent Bayou Judgments Highlight a Direct Conflict between Bankruptcy Law and Hedge Fund Due Diligence Best Practices

The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York recently issued judgments in favor of three bankrupt hedge funds in fraudulent conveyance actions against investors that redeemed within two years of the funds’ bankruptcy filings.  The hedge funds were members of the Bayou group of hedge funds, which – as the hedge fund industry knows well – was a fraud that collapsed in August 2005, resulting in bankruptcy filings by the Bayou funds and related entities in May 2006.  These judgments are very important for hedge fund investors because they illustrate what appears to be a direct conflict between bankruptcy law and hedge fund due diligence best practices.  In short, hedge fund due diligence best practices currently counsel in favor of redemption at the first whiff of fraud on the part of a manager.  However, bankruptcy law appears to require a hedge fund investor to undertake a “diligent investigation” when it obtains facts that put it on inquiry notice of insolvency of the fund or a fraudulent purpose on the part of the manager.  The immediacy of a prompt redemption is directly at odds with the delay inherent in a diligent investigation.  How can hedge fund investors reconcile the practical goal of prompt self-help with the legal obligation of a diligent investigation?  To help answer that question, this feature length article surveys the factual and procedural history of the Bayou matters, then analyzes the arguments and outcome in the recent Bayou trial.  The primary question at the trial was whether certain investors that redeemed from the Bayou funds could keep their redemption proceeds based on “good faith” defenses to the Bayou estate’s fraudulent conveyance actions.  In the absence of a court opinion, the Hedge Fund Law Report analyzed the 142-page transcript of the closing arguments, as well as the motion papers filed by the parties and four prior bankruptcy court and district court opinions.  This article embodies the results of our analysis.  The article concludes by identifying five ways in which hedge fund investors may reconcile hedge fund due diligence best practices with the seemingly draconian outcome in these recent Bayou judgments.

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