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SEC Short-Sale Probe Turns to Gryphon Fund

It's been a rough year on the regulatory front for the Dallas hedge fund Gryphon Partners.

In April, Jonathan Daws, a former Gryphon portfolio manager, pleaded guilty in federal court to a conspiracy charge arising from a scheme involving confidential information about government investigations of publicly traded companies.

Daws, who left Gryphon in 2002, participated in a plot hatched by notorious short-seller Anthony Elgindy that involved betting against companies being probed, then driving down the stock prices by leaking the news on the Internet. Elgindy and former FBI agent Jeffrey Royer, the scheme's masterminds, were convicted in January after a lengthy trial in New York.

Now, sources say, Gryphon is one of several hedge funds under scrutiny in another federal investigation, one that also involves allegations of misused nonpublic information.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is weighing whether to pursue an enforcement action against the $265 million fund, say people familiar with the matter. The case is part of a sweeping investigation into allegations of manipulative trading in the $14-billion-a-year market for PIPEs, an acronym for private investment in public equity.

SEC attorneys in Washington have made numerous requests to Gryphon for documents and information about PIPE deals the hedge fund invested in over the past several years. SEC attorneys also have had several face-to-face meetings with lawyers for Gryphon to discuss the investigation, sources say.

A spokesman for the SEC declined to comment on the situation. Ben Rosenberg, a partner with Dechert, who is representing Gryphon, says, "I do not anticipate an imminent enforcement action against Gryphon.'' He declined to comment further.

Since 1999, the first year Gryphon began investing in PIPEs, it has sunk a total of $190 million into these private stock deals, which usually involve small companies selling their shares at a discount to their market price. According to PlacementTracker, a private placement research firm, Gryphon this year ranks is the 19th most active PIPEs player in terms of the number of deals it's invested in.

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