Misuse of Private Fund Assets Leads to SEC Enforcement and Industry Bar for Fund Manager
In a cautionary tale about the career-limiting risks of SEC sanctions, a private fund adviser and its owner were found to have misused over $1 million of fund assets, resulting in a bar from the investment industry as well as a civil penalty.
Monsoon Capital, LLC (Monsoon) is an SEC-registered investment adviser founded and owned by Gautam Prakash. Among Monsoon’s clients is Monsoon Infrastructure & Realty Co-Invest, L.P. (MIRC), a private fund focused on infrastructure investments in India.
According to the settlement order, between 2015 and 2019, Prakash routinely purchased two airline tickets for the same trip, but for different prices and on different airlines. He then obtained a refund for the more expensive ticket, used the cheaper one, but submitted the more expensive one for reimbursement to be paid in part as a MIRC fund expense. Prakash retained the difference in cost, and he collected $44,042 in excess travel costs for himself. In 2019, Prakash returned the improper expenses with interest, and disclosed them in the fund’s 2018 financial statements.
Additionally, the SEC alleged that Prakash borrowed $1 million in 2017 from a MIRC fund account to settle a personal trade of his in India. He had initially attempted to transfer funds to his personal account in India, but an error caused the money to not be available in time to fund the transaction. Prakesh then temporarily borrowed $1 million from MIRC’s account to settle the trade, in spite of alleged warnings from Monsoon employees that this would constitute a breach of fiduciary duty. Prakash returned the $1 million with interest, and disclosed the loan in MIRC’s 2018 financial statements.
The SEC found that Monsoon and Prakash willfully violated Advisers Act provisions that prohibit defrauding clients, engaging in fraud, and making false statements to investors. As a result, the SEC barred Prakash from the investment industry and required Monsoon and Prakash to pay a $100,000 civil penalty.
This case should serve as a cautionary tale. It’s unlikely that Prakash will be able to work as an investment advisor or associate with another regulated entity in the future – all for seemingly little gain on his part. The SEC imposed an unqualified industry bar, with no right to reapply, so Prakash likely would need to show “extraordinary circumstances” if he is ever to return to the industry.