The former chief compliance officer at the $1.8 billion private investment firm GPB Capital Holdings on Tuesday pleaded guilty to theft of government property, according to a spokesperson from the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York.
The executive, Michael Cohn, faces up to one year in prison when he is sentenced in January 2021. While he had originally faced felony charges, his plea on Tuesday was reduced to a misdemeanor, noted his attorney, Scott A. Resnik.
“Michael Cohn feels vindicated by the resolution of this case to a misdemeanor,” Resnik said. “He maintains his innocence regarding the felony charges.”
The misdemeanor charge Cohn faced was in relation to his accessing and retrieving non-public and confidential information about Securities and Exchange Commission investigations into GPB and using that information to get a job at GPB, according to John Marzulli, the spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office.
A former SEC examiner, Cohn was charged last October with obstruction of justice relating to an SEC investigation of GPB. He allegedly stole information from the SEC before he started working for GPB in October 2018.
Resnik, Cohn’s attorney, said that his client never shared any confidential SEC information with the company.
“Former SEC and GPB employee Michael Cohn was with GPB for less than a year and GPB had no involvement with or knowledge of his wrongdoing,” wrote GPB spokesperson Nancy Sterling in an email. “GPB terminated Cohn immediately upon learning of the situation.”
Cohn’s guilty plea is the latest in a litany of problems facing GPB, which raised more than $1.8 billion from wealthy clients starting in 2013 to invest primarily in auto dealerships and trash hauling businesses.
The company is under investigation by the FBI and SEC and has failed to produce audited financial statements for its private placement funds. About sixty broker-dealers sold GPB private placements to wealthy customers and brokers and their broker-dealers are now facing investor complaints regarding the sales of GPB products.
And this summer, GPB in a filing with the SEC reported a drop of $238.6 million in regulatory assets under management and, so far, has made no public explanation for the decline.
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