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Hedge Fund Co-Founder Neil Phillips Charged With Manipulation of the Rand’s value

Hedge Fund Co-Founder Neil Phillips Charged With Manipulation of the Rand’s value
A screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, New York, USA, 13 June 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Justin Lane)

The co-founder and chief investment officer of a UK-based hedge fund was charged with scheming to manipulate the foreign-exchange market to trigger a $20 million payment under a separate options contract.

Neil Phillips, 52, was arrested in Spain on a request from the US earlier this week, federal prosecutors in New York said Thursday in a statement. He was charged with conspiring to manipulate the US dollar-South African rand exchange rate in late 2017, according to the statement.

Phillips’s firm wasn’t identified, but the description provided by prosecutors matches Glen Point Capital, a macro hedge fund firm he started with his former BlueBay Asset Management colleague Jonathan Fayman and money from investors including billionaire George Soros.

Glen Point was set to be acquired in December by Edward Eisler’s Eisler Capital, but the deal fell apart in February because of a disagreement on the level of risk Glen Point’s fund could take. The two London-based firms started in 2015 and trace their roots back to macro trading. Eisler has been expanding into other strategies in a bid to compete with industry giants such as Millennium Management and Citadel for capital and talent.

A spokesman for Eisler Capital confirmed Phillips never joined the firm and declined further comment. A lawyer for Phillips couldn’t be identified.

According to prosecutors, Phillips’s hedge fund bought a digital option for the USD/ZAR currency pair in late October 2017 that was set to expire on Jan. 2, 2018. The option had a notional value of $20 million and a barrier rate of 12.50 ZAR to USD, and entitled the fund to a $20 million payment if the rate went below 12.50 before the expiration date.

With the option set to expire, Phillips began making spot trades in an effort to push the exchange rate lower late on Christmas Day, while directing a Singapore-based employee of an unidentified bank to sell $725 million in exchange for more than 9 million in South African rand, according to prosecutors. That pushed the exchange rate below the trigger, allowing Phillips to collect more than $15.6 million from the deal, according to the statement.

The case is US v Phillips, 22-cr-138, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).


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