Investor Roni Dersovitz used a little-known hedge fund strategy to make millions from his bet on a legal verdict related to the 1983 Beirut car bombing that killed 241 Americans.
Unfortunately the victims of the bombing have yet to see a penny, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Rob Copeland.
Here’s how that happened:
Dersovitz’ “legal funding” hedge fund, RD Legal Capital LLC, finances law firms and the clients they represent in return for a payout if or when their cases have been won. (If you’re curious, their website lists suggested eligible case types for post-settlement advance funding, ranging from various pharmaceuticals tied to legal cases, to the BP oil spill, to sexual abuse cases.)
In the case of the Beirut bombing, in which the country of Iran was found liable for the terrorist attack at a US Marines barracks, Dersovitz’ hedge fund offered advances and “flat out purchases” to anyone expecting to receive a judgment — i.e. families of the victims.
That means the firm purchased portions of the families’ expected judgments (totalling $US150 million, according to the Journal).
But now the money is tied up.
Even though a US court found Iran liable in 2007 and a judge ordered the government to pay victims’ families $US1.8 billion from Iran’s central bank in 2014, the bank is reportedly appealing the decision, and the victims have yet to receive any money.
RD Legal Capital, however, “crafted an unusual financial arrangement” that allows them to receive millions of dollars on that investment, according to the Journal.
Dersovitz is not actually taking money away from the victims; instead, he’s inflating the value of the terror claims on the books.
He bought the claims at a discount and then a committee revalued them much higher — closer to their actual value. Then the firm simply booked the gains and collected its cut of profits.
Really, it’s the investors in Dersovitz’ firm — reportedly a bunch of wealthy individuals who were pitched at a country club — who are missing out: they don’t receive gains above 13.5 per cent on their investments.
And while Dersovitz has reportedly cashed out upward of $US20 million over the past several years from the Iran investment fund, his firm is now facing “illiquidity” issues and had to suspend investor withdrawals earlier this year.