Platinum Partners Portfolio Manager Daniel Small Convicted of Defrauding Bondholders in a Multi-Million Dollar Scheme

Daniel Small, a former portfolio manager for Platinum Partners L.P. (Platinum), Mark Nordlicht, the founder and Chief Investment Officer of Platinum Partners L.P. (Platinum), and David Levy, the co-Chief Investment Officer of Platinum were convicted today by a federal jury in Brooklyn on charges of securities fraud and securities fraud conspiracy for his role in defrauding the bondholders of Black Elk Energy (Black Elk), an oil company that was one of Platinum’s largest assets, by rigging a consent solicitation vote.  The verdict followed a two-week trial before United States District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan. Small and his co-conspirators engaged in a scheme to deceive the bondholders of Black Elk by rigging the vote to enrich themselves.

“With today’s verdict, Nordlicht and Levy have been held accountable for deceiving bondholders to gain control of the remaining assets of a failing oil company to line their own pockets and those of close family and friends, like Mr. Small, fueled by their own self-interest and avarice, purposely cheated their investors. Today the jury held Mr. Small accountable for his actions, another step in the process of getting justice for his victims. The FBI and our partners remain committed to holding actors who defraud and manipulate investors responsible for their crimes so the public maintains its confidence in the integrity of our financial markets,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.

Daniel Small, former Managing Director of Platinum Partners, conspired in an elaborate scheme to fraudulently divert millions in proceeds from bond investors to Platinum Partners. This scheme was artfully concealed through what appeared to be a series of legitimate events. Nonetheless, it was an outright multi-million dollar theft from innocent victims. The United States Postal Inspection Service has a long and proven history of investigating egregious Wall Street Security Frauds such as these. Small’s conviction represents our dedication to help maintain an honest and fair trading environment across all publicly traded companies.”

Platinum was a New York City-based hedge fund founded in 2003.  The evidence at trial established that between approximately November 2011 and December 2016, Nordlicht and Levy, together with their co-conspirators, orchestrated a fraudulent scheme to defraud third-party holders of Black Elk’s publicly traded bonds (the bondholders) by diverting to Platinum the proceeds from the sale of the vast majority of Black Elk’s most lucrative oil fields even though the bondholders had priority over Platinum’s equity interests.  To execute this scheme, in early 2014, Nordlicht, Levy and others caused Platinum to secretly purchase Black Elk bonds on the open market and gain control of $98 million of the $150 million of outstanding bonds.  The bonds were then transferred through a number of related entities to conceal their ownership and control by Platinum.  Nordlicht, Levy and their co-conspirators then rigged a consent solicitation vote to amend the Black Elk indenture so that the proceeds from the sale of Black Elk’s best assets would be paid to the preferred equity – which was held by Platinum and Platinum insiders – ahead of the other bondholders.  Notably, non-Platinum related bondholders overwhelmingly voted against changing the indenture; one bondholder explained that to do so would constitute “giv[ing] up my rights and not get[ting] anything back for it,” which he characterized as “kind of stupid.” 

After the rigged vote was complete, Nordlicht, Levy and their co-conspirators took millions of dollars from the asset sale for themselves, family members and friends, including approximately $7 million to Nordlicht’s father, approximately $250,000 to Levy and approximately $2 million to the brother of a co-conspirator.

Nordlicht, Levy and Joseph SanFilippo were acquitted of counts related to a separately charged scheme involving investors in the Platinum funds.  

To execute this scheme, in early 2014, Small, Nordlicht, Levy and others caused Platinum to secretly purchase Black Elk bonds on the open market and gain control of $98 million of the $150 million of outstanding bonds. The bonds were then transferred through a number of related entities to conceal their ownership and control by Platinum. Small, Nordlicht, Levy and their co-conspirators then rigged a consent solicitation vote to amend the Black Elk indenture so that the proceeds from the sale of Black Elk’s best assets would be paid to the preferred equity – which was held by Platinum and Platinum insiders – ahead of the other bondholders. Notably, non-Platinum related bondholders overwhelmingly voted against changing the indenture; one testified that bondholders would never knowingly give up being “as senior as possible in the capital structure” for “nothing” in return, which he characterized as an “irrational choice.”

After the rigged vote was complete, Small, Nordlicht, Levy and their co-conspirators took millions of dollars from the asset sale for themselves, family members and friends, including approximately $7 million to Nordlicht’s father, approximately $250,000 to Levy, approximately $100,000 to Small and approximately $2 million to the brother of another co-conspirator.

All defendants are awaiting sentencing.

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