Fund Boss Odey’s Assault Trial Starts After Humbling Year

For Crispin Odey, a personal and professional crisis is coming to a head.

The hedge fund manager will fight a sex assault charge this week knowing that a verdict against him could end an investing career that’s spanned nearly three decades.

On Wednesday, Odey will face a two-day trial where he’s accused of groping a young bank employee after inviting her back to his home in 1998.

Prosecutors said at a hearing in September that Odey changed into a dressing gown, only to “launch himself” at the woman and assault her. The impact of the attack was both “immediate and long standing,” the woman told police.

The trial comes after a humbling year for the 62-year-old, who’s seen a 30% decline in his fund and his name dropped off some of the funds managed at his eponymous firm.

The woman, who was in her 20s at the time, worked at an investment bank that had Odey’s fund as a client. It was an “abuse of trust” that required a “significant degree of planning,” the prosecutor said.

“This allegation is immensely damaging professionally and personally for Mr. Odey,” his lawyer, Crispin Aylett, said at the time. Odey’s fund declined to comment ahead of the trial.

Odey, who has insisted the allegation is untrue, had pushed to have the case heard before a magistrate rather than be tried by a jury in a criminal court. Odey pushed for a swift magistrates trial, his lawyers said, so as not to have the allegation hanging over him.

Magistrates trials often mean a lower sentence if an individual is found guilty, but the potential maximum jail time is 10 years.

The case will be watched by financial regulators, who have gotten tougher on personal lapses.

Officials at the Financial Conduct Authority declared in November that three men were not “fit and proper” to work in the financial industry after they were convicted of sexual offenses -- the first time the FCA has taken such action.

While Odey fights the litigation, he has also stepped away from the helm of his firm to focus on trading. The firm has since created a new unit called Brook Asset Management and rebranded several funds. At least seven funds have already dropped Odey’s name. The renamed funds are managed by James Hanbury and Oliver Kelton.

Odey, a backer of Brexit and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is known for his eye-catching comments and bearish market outlook.

But many of his contrarian bets have misfired in recent years. Last year was the fifth annual decline at Odey’s main hedge fund in the past six years and means that he needs to make a return of 203% just to recover losses incurred since 2015, according to Bloomberg calculations. He has started off well in 2021 with the fund gaining 22% through Feb. 5, according to an investor update.

His firm’s assets have dwindled to about $3 billion from $13 billion in 2015.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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