Hedge fund legend Leon Cooperman on Tuesday again defended himself against the insider trading charges he faces.
“Information is not a crime,” Cooperman told CNBC’s Squawk Box. “What I look for is insight, not insider information.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Cooperman and his hedge fund — the $5.5 billion Omega Advisors — with insider trading relating to trades he placed in a company called Atlas Pipeline. The trades were made just days before the company announced the sale of an asset.
Cooperman said he could settle with the commission for less than half of what he donates to charity every year, but would rather defend the legacy he’s built up over 50 years.
Cooperman said the charges have “dramatically impacted” his associates and partners, who he feels sorry for.
“I’m a big boy, I can handle myself,” he added.
Cooperman said Omega’s equity fund is up 7% this year, in line with the S&P 500. Omega’s main fund has gained 5% this year, while the credit opportunities fund is up by between 13% and 14%, Cooperman said.
“The press is crazy,” he said, responding to a question about a family member’s alleged involvement in insider trading.
According to the SEC, Cooperman spoke to an Atlas Pipeline Partners executive and learned about an upcoming transaction. On the same day, he bought close to 2,000 options to acquire shares of the company, and later added more call options and a position in the company’s bonds.
He later sent an email to a relative letting them know about the transaction — a day before it was officially announced. When the deal was announced, the family member sent an email to an APL executive flagging “some fishy options trades in apl before this that somebody should investigate,” according to the SEC.