Steven Cohen Makes a Comeback at Premier Hedge Fund Conference

LAS VEGAS — The billionaire investor Steven A. Cohen may be barred from managing outside money until next year, but he has already hinted that he plans to get back into the hedge game.

The most telling sign yet? Mr. Cohen’s unexpected appearance at a Las Vegas hedge fund conference this week.

Mr. Cohen was seen late on Thursday night playing craps at a table in the casino of the Bellagio Las Vegas hotel, one of Las Vegas’s most extravagant hotels. Mr. Cohen, 60, was rolling the dice with Ilana Weinstein, a sister of the hedge fund manager Boaz Weinstein, at a table with a maximum bet of $5,000.

Boaz Weinstein and his sister were featured speakers this week at the annual SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, known as SALT — a lavish multiday hedge fund conference that draws a slew of prominent money managers and politicians. This year’s featured guest was Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president.

Mr. Cohen’s appearance at SALT — where he also dined privately with a small group of conference speakers, including the prominent short-seller Jim Chanos, the activist investor William A. Ackman and Mr. Biden — was a surprise, given that he was not featured in publicity for the event.

Mr. Cohen last attended in 2011, when he was interviewed onstage by the conference’s founder, Anthony Scaramucci. Two years later, Mr. Cohen’s highly successful SAC Capital Advisors was indicted in the biggest securities fraud case ever brought against a hedge fund.

On Thursday morning, Mr. Cohen was a featured speaker at an event for veterans at the Bellagio. In recent years, he has become a major benefactor to organizations helping wounded veterans.

Later, Mr. Cohen went to see Duran Duran play a private concert for conference attendees.

That Mr. Cohen attended other SALT events has renewed speculation that a small investment firm he established last year — Stamford Harbor Capital — will begin raising money from outside investors next year once a two-year ban he agreed to with the Securities and Exchange Commission expires in January.

Mr. Cohen agreed to the prohibition, which barred him from managing money for outside investors, to settle accusations of an administrative failure to supervise brought by the regulatory agency.

But the man viewed by many as one of the most successful stock traders of his generation was never charged by either prosecutors or regulators with insider trading. And his longtime prosecutorial nemesis, Preet Bharara, who once called SAC Capital a “magnet for market cheaters,” is no longer the United States attorney in Manhattan.

In an interview with The New York Times in October, Mr. Cohen gave the surest indication yet that he was looking to reopen a hedge fund, saying that he was “leaning” toward taking outside money from investors in 2018. But he added, “We haven’t made a final decision.”

Representatives for Mr. Cohen, who now oversees a $12 billion private investment firm called Point72 Asset Management, declined to comment on Mr. Cohen’s intentions for Stamford Harbor.

Mr. Cohen is not allowed to raise money while the industry ban is in place. But there’s nothing to stop him from mingling with potential investors — at conferences or in the casinos.

There were no obvious marketing people with Mr. Cohen at SALT, and he did not appear to come with much of an entourage.

But someone associated with Mr. Cohen was handing out invitations to a fund-raiser he will hold on Tuesday in Manhattan for Bo Dietl, the former New York police detective and media personality who is planning to run for mayor. Tickets for the event cost $4,950.

Mr. Cohen, who is also widely known as a prodigious art collector, gave $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee.

And Mr. Cohen has become increasingly active in raising and donating money for aiding injured veterans of the armed services. Last year, he committed $325 million to a program to help veterans who had suffered traumatic brain injuries through his Cohen Veterans Network, an organization he set up.

His network runs a number of clinics across the United States to provide mental health care to veterans. He became interested in helping veterans because one of his sons served as a Marine after graduating from college and did a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Mr. Cohen’s Point72, which is run as a family office to manage his personal fortune, functions much as SAC did. It employs nearly 1,000 employees in SAC’s former office center in Stamford, Conn., and it has teams of portfolio managers trading mostly stocks and bonds.

He wound down SAC around the same time a federal judge accepted the firm’s guilty plea in 2014. In settling with federal prosecutors and the S.E.C., the hedge fund paid $1.8 billion in fines and restitution.

Still, there are reminders of the bad days for Mr. Cohen.

A federal appellate court recently heard arguments in a bid by a former SAC portfolio manager, Mathew Martoma, who is now serving a nine-year prison term after being convicted in 2014, to win a new criminal trial. Mr. Martoma was convicted in one of the biggest insider trading cases ever — a trial in which Mr. Cohen’s name frequently came up during testimony.

Last month, a New Jersey appellate court reinstated an 11-year-old lawsuit against Mr. Cohen’s former firm, which involves allegations that SAC conspired with other hedge funds to drive down the price of shares of Fairfax Financial, a large Canadian insurer. Fairfax is seeking billions of dollars in damages, claiming it was the target of a long-running scheme by hedge funds seeking to profit from a sharp decline in the company’s stock price.

And then there is “Billions,” the drama on the cable network Showtime that depicts a billionaire hedge fund manager doing battle with a federal prosecutor who is on a Captain Ahab-like quest to get his white whale.

Behind the scenes, the machinery for Mr. Cohen’s upstart hedge-fund-in-waiting quietly churns away.

He has selected one of his longtime employees, Perry Boyle, to run the new firm. Mr. Boyle runs Stamford Harbor in a building on the other side of the parking lot from Point72’s headquarters in Stamford.

Stamford Harbor currently manages $105 million of Mr. Cohen’s money; according to regulatory filings, he owns more than 25 percent of the new firm “through intermediate entities.”

At the Bellagio craps table, Mr. Cohen played for about 15 minutes before walking away — mostly likely to get away from the gaggle of onlookers who were beginning to gather.

Mr. Cohen left without speaking, but two women walked up to him to asked if he had won. A reporter could not hear his answer.

He was still wearing a purple glow stick around his neck, a souvenir from the Duran Duran concert he attended earlier in the evening.

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