Sung Kook “Bill” Hwang’s criminal racketeering trial over the collapse of Archegos Capital Management begins on Wednesday with the selection of jurors who will decide if he and a deputy broke the law in a massive stock scheme that unraveled in just days in 2021.

The trial in Manhattan federal court is expected to last up to eight weeks and will delve into the implosion of Hwang’s lightly regulated family investment office, which prosecutors allege caused more than $100 billion in shareholder losses at companies in its portfolio.

Federal prosecutors accuse Hwang of using derivatives to secretly amass positions in multiple stocks that were so large they eclipsed that of the companies’ largest investors, driving up stock prices.

They also claim Hwang and former Archegos Chief Financial Officer Patrick Halligan then lied about their holdings to sustain their business relationship with global banks.

Hwang and Halligan are charged with racketeering conspiracy. Hwang faces an additional 10 counts of fraud and market manipulation, and Halligan an additional two counts of fraud.

The two men have pleaded not guilty and are expected to argue prosecutors are pushing a novel and nonsensical market manipulation theory. Several attorneys told Reuters it may be a tough case for prosecutors.

Hwang’s lawyers have described the case as the “most aggressive open market manipulation case ever” brought by prosecutors.

Each count carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years.

Archegos head trader William Tomita and Chief Risk Officer Scott Becker have pleaded guilty to related charges and are expected to testify at the trial.

The trial will begin with jury selection on Wednesday and Thursday and opening statements on Monday. The judge has said there are unlikely to be proceedings on Fridays.

Wednesday will focus on identifying potential jurors who can serve the length of the trial and on Thursday the judge and legal teams will determine the suitability and impartiality of potential jurors. There will be 12 jurors and four alternates.

Archegos’ March 2021 collapse stemmed from Hwang’s use of financial contracts known as total return swaps to take outsized stakes in his favorite holdings without actually owning the stock.

Authorities have said Archegos borrowed aggressively to boost trading capacity and at its peak had $36 billion in assets and $160 billion of exposure to equities. Falling stock prices in March 2021 triggered margin calls that Archegos was unable to meet.

That led some banks to dump stocks backing his swaps, causing big losses for Archegos and its lenders, such as Credit Suisse, now part of UBS, and Nomura Holdings.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who is overseeing the trial, rejected Hwang and Halligan’s motion to dismiss the case last year.


© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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