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For Mel Lifshitz, Trust Is a Two-Way Street

A business profile obtained from corporate database Experian says Colbart Birnet employs two people and had estimated sales of $514,000.

Since 2003, the Colbart entities have been frequent investors in private stock placements by small, cash-strapped companies that trade for under a $1 a share. On Wall Street, these deals are commonly called PIPEs, or private investments in public equity.

But Colbart apparently also has other investments. In the Federated case, a declaration filed by Colbart Birnet says it bought and sold about 2 million shares of various Federated funds from 1999 through 2001.

Human Error

Some federal filings, however, paint a conflicting picture of Lifshitz's interest in Colbart Birnet.

Last year, five regulatory filings made in connection with the registration and sale of stock by Optionable (OPBL), a small New York firm that provides services to brokerages, listed Lifshitz as one of Colbart Birnet's "beneficial owners.'' The other listed owners are Ezra Birnbaum and Eli Levitan, a New York lawyer.

Birnbaum is president of Pond Equities, a New York brokerage firm that has been a longtime client of Bernstein Liebhard. Over the years, Pond Equities has appeared as a plaintiff, sometimes in a lead plaintiff role, in 32 securities class actions filed by Bernstein Liebhard in federal court.

Some regulatory filings describe Colbart Birnet as an "affiliate'' of Pond Equities. An investment advisory form filed by Pond with the SEC describes Birnbaum as the general partner of Colbart Birnet II. The form says about 1% of Pond customers are investors in Colbart Birnet, and a minimum investment costs $100,000. The form also says Colbart Birnet has $1.83 million in assets.

Birnbaum, who lives near Lifshitz in Lawrence, N.Y., on Long Island, did not return several telephone calls. Levitan could not be reached for comment.

Lifshitz, in an email response, says the description of him as beneficial owner of Colbart Birnet is a mistake and he had not been aware of it until brought it to his attention. He said he would ask the company to correct the filings.

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