(The following is slightly fictionalized, but more-or-less true)

I recently ended a relationship with a hedge fund. The relationship ended unpleasantly, and lawyers were involved. I tried to explain to my lawyer that they were doing a number of things that are breaking SEC's regulations - but these things were way too complicated for my lawyer to wrap his mind around. My lawyer told me to settle with them and sign a non-disparagement agreement. So I did. (They dropped legal action, but did not compensate me in any way.)

The hedge fund has continued to do the things which I believe are illegal, and not only that, they are bragging about them openly to their investors. This infuriates me. I would relish reporting them, especially since they are continuing to do this, and they are bragging about doing this, and because this is what led to my original dispute with them.

I emphasize that I strongly believe they are breaking the law: I have read the laws and I have read their descriptions of what they are doing. I have put these side-by-side and if I can read English, they are breaking the law. However, my experience is that how laws are enforced in practice can sometimes be different from how the law reads to someone on the outside.

My understanding is that this is an issue of public interest, and that they couldn't retaliate against me by enforcing the agreement. I'm not willing to do this without consultation from an attorney. So now I have several options.

  1. Go directly to the SEC. I could show them exactly where they brag about breaking the law. I could do this anonymously, but the hedge fund would have a good idea it was me.

  2. Go to a lawyer who represents hedge funds, and have a consultation before reporting anything. This lawyer would probably have a good picture of what laws are prosecuted and which ones aren't, but I would have to trust there was no conflict of interest.

  3. Go to a consumer lawyer and have a consultation before reporting anything. The problem here is that I doubt the average lawyer would have any idea about these laws, because they are somewhat complex.

  4. Sit here and try to root for the Mets and be content that the hedge fund is hurting other people and not me.


Take option #2. Your concern in that scenario is not realistic: A lawyer who "reported" you to the counterparty of your settlement for such a consultation would be disbarred so quickly and harshly that it might actually give you faith in the Bar Associations. Consultations with lawyers are privileged, and lawyers have a duty to maintain client confidentiality in all but the most extreme situations.

Furthermore, you might (ultimately) be entitled to whistleblower compensation, and unless you're an SEC rules specialist you probably wouldn't know how to get that without an advocate like a securities industry lawyer.

  • Awesome Thanks! Minor follow-up: Is there any reason I need to tread carefully when requesting the consultation? Can I just call the lawyer up and say "Hi I'd like to disparage XXX Equity, is that cool?" – A.S. Oct 23 '15 at 20:18
  • 1
    @A.S. - Basically, yes, that will probably be the second thing you'd say. First should be something like, "Are you a lawyer, and are you available to provide me with legal advice on a securities industry matter?" If they say yes, then the attorney-client relationship is established. Then, when you tell them who is involved, they would immediately run a conflict-of-interest check to confirm they can still advise you, or else tell you to seek another lawyer due to conflicts in their firm. – feetwet Oct 23 '15 at 21:39

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