Hedge fund manager Cooperman refused to settle, fights to save legacy

Leon Cooperman, chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors, speaks during the Sohn Investment Conference in New York

BOSTON (Reuters) – Billionaire investor Leon Cooperman on Wednesday told investors that he and his hedge fund Omega Advisors refused to settle insider trading charges with the United States government because he would not let anyone destroy his legacy.

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday charged the 73-year old stock picker and his $5.4 billion firm with illegal trading in Atlas Pipeline Partners six years ago after they found out about the planned sale of a unit.

Sounding defiant on a 10 minute conference call with investors, Cooperman said he plans to fight the charges and will continue to invest money for clients. Cooperman said he likes what he owns and that there is no need for forced selling in his portfolios which are making money this year.

“I could have settled this for far less money than I give to charity every year,” Cooperman said, adding “I am not going to let these people destroy my legacy.”

Cooperman, who has been investing for roughly five decades, said his lawyers forbade him to take questions on the call, something that goes against his nature to be very open. “I won’t

take questions as much as I’m dying to,” Cooperman said adding that he is confident “we will prevail” in fighting the charges.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by David Gregorio and Andrew Hay)