Locating Bawag's ties to the U.S. market for public investment in private equity, or PIPEs, was no easy feat.
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Securities and Exchange Commission
filings, found only a handful of company documents in which Bank fur Arbeit und Wirtschaft's financial interest in a group of hedge funds was disclosed. Not surprisingly, the disclosures were always buried in the footnotes to filings listing the investors in a particular transaction.
Bawag's ownership interest in Alpha Capital, for instance, is disclosed just twice, in the Aug. 30, 2002, and Sept. 9, 2002, filings for
Eagle Supply Group
. The filings describe Alpha Capital as a "private investment fund owned by Bank fur Arbeit und Wirstchaft
sic and Leguas Stiftung, a private family trust.''
In most of the filings, the only information provided for Alpha Capital is an address in Lichtenstein and a contact person, usually a man named Konrad Ackerman, who is identified as a director. Sometimes, LH Financial Services Corp. is listed as the representative for Alpha Capital.
It took another round of searching to discover that Leguas Stiftung is the family trust of Martin Schlaff, a billionaire Austrian businessman and one of Bawag's wealthiest customers. Schlaff also controls Balmore, a British Virgin Islands-based hedge fund that has invested in a number of PIPEs deals along with the Bawag affiliates.
Other footnotes in scattered filings reveal that Bawag owns 100% of Austinvest Anstalt Balzers and has "voting and dispositive power with respect to shares owned'' by Celeste Trust. A 2000 annual report for Bawag says the bank owns 100% of Austost Anstalt Schann.
No regulatory filing directly ties Bawag to LH Financial. However, Roy Norris, a former CEO of
Mooney Aerospace Group
, a company that got financing from LH Financial, says the New York firm made no secret of its ties to Bawag when it was negotiating to buy some of the aircraft company's assets out of a bankruptcy proceeding.
Norris says he was told on a number of occasions that Bawag "partly owned" LH Financial. Norris says he even accompanied Solomon Obstfeld, an LH Financial executive, to Switzerland in 2001 to meet a top Bawag executive.
That's not just idle chatter. Norris made the same claims in a sworn statement that was filed in the Mooney bankruptcy case, which is still pending in a Texas federal court.
In that sworn statement, Norris says, "Mr. Obstfeld had told me that LH Financial was owned in part by the Bawag bank.''