Daniel Och’s dirty money

Lately, we’ve taken a look or two at Kyle Bass, who, as we discovered, is, among other things, awfully chummy with the swindling thugs who run Argentina. But when it comes to making sweetheart deals with slimy heads of state, he’s got nothing on fellow New York hedge funder Daniel Och, the CEO and Chairman of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group. For the story of Och’s career is, to a remarkable extent, an account of intimate, mutually profitable, and utterly unconscionable transactions with some of the most brutal tyrants of our time.

och
Daniel Och

First, a brief introduction: Och (who’s been described as “one of the few men for whom the description steely-eyed is truly apt”) is a native New Jerseyan who, after graduating from the Wharton School, spent eleven years at Goldman Sachs. In 1994, with a $100 million cash infusion from the heirs to the Ziff publishing fortune, he founded Och-Ziff. By 2013, he was #17 on Forbes’s list of the year’s 25 top-earning hedge funders, with a $400 million take. In addition to his principal residence, an apartment at 15 Central Park West in Manhattan – the “world’s richest address” – he owns a $20.3 million, 12,000-square-foot mansion in Aspen, Colorado, that boasts 7 bedrooms and 9.5 baths.

Och has had more than his share of controversy. In 2011, Och-Ziff was sued by an ex-employee who claimed he was owed $7.9 million in pay and stock. Last year, a group of Och-Ziff shareholders sued the firm for issuing “false and/or misleading statements and/or fail[ing] to disclose material adverse facts” about its activities. According to the New York Observer, when Lehman Brothers went down the drain, its lawyers suspected Och of short-selling their company “into the dirt.” Indeed, court papers filed in 2010 charged that Och-Ziff had spread rumors “that helped bring down Lehman Brothers.” As the Wall Street Journal reported, Och-Ziff “likely disseminated and/or was the recipient” of a story “that Lehman had spun off debt to two Lehman-controlled hedge funds to reduce [its] leverage” – a lie that was allegedly propagated “by unscrupulous market participants looking to profit” from shorting Lehman stock. 

But what about those transactions with tyrants? Tune in tomorrow.