New York

Hedge fund manager accused of insider trading found dead in apparent suicide

Sanjay Valvani on Wednesday.

Sanjay Valvani on Wednesday.  (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

A manager at one of the biggest hedge funds facing insider trading accusations was found dead Monday night in an apparent suicide less than a week after prosecutors filed charges against him, police announced.

Sanjay Valvani, a 44-year-old partner and money manager at Visium Asset Management LP in New York City, was charged last Wednesday with five counts including securities fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors said Valvani made at least $32 million from trades based on confidential tips about drug approvals. He pleaded not guilty.

His wife found him with a wound to his neck at their home in Brooklyn, police told Reuters. They said they recovered a knife and a suicide note. His attorneys, Barry Berke and Eric Tirschwell, called his death a "horrible tragedy that is difficult to comprehend."

Valvani paid a former Food and Drug Administration employee to pass along tips about pending drug approvals from an ex-colleague, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. He also accused Valvani of sending some of those tips to portfolio manager Christopher Plaford, who made his own illegal trades.

Bharara did not immediately comment on the suicide report.

In response to the accusations, Berke called his client "an innocent man whose investment decisions were always based on rigorous and entirely appropriate research and analysis.''

Visium announced Friday it would sell one of its funds and shut the rest. The firm had managed $8 billion at its peak, Bloomberg reported, but uneasy clients pulled out billions of dollars after details of the federal investigation went public earlier this year.

"We mourn the tragic loss of Sanjay, a devoted father, husband and friend. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time," Visium's founder Jacob Gottlieb responded.

Plaford pleaded guilty to insider trading earlier this month. The ex-FDA employee, Gordon Johnston, pleaded guilty to related charges. He reportedly said Valvani had described the drug tips as "political intelligence."