Neiman Marcus Seeks $55 Million From Nemesis Marble Ridge
(Bloomberg) -- Neiman Marcus Group Inc. asked a judge to prevent hedge fund Marble Ridge Capital LP from disbanding until the firm guarantees it can pay as much as $55 million in potential damages related to the actions of its founder.
The retailer is seeking a temporary restraining order and compensation for alleged damages caused by the firm after Marble Ridge’s money manager Dan Kamensky was accused of trying to manipulate the bidding process in its bankruptcy case.
Late Thursday after a court hearing in Houston, Marble Ridge agreed to escrow the $55 million until at least next month when it comes back in front of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David R. Jones, who had suggested that Kamensky’s actions would be reviewed by federal prosecutors.
Kamensky is scheduled to testify in front of Jones at that hearing. On Thursday, Jones warned that law enforcement agents may be listening to Kamensky’s testimony. Marble Ridge lawyer Zachary D. Rosenbaum said Kamensky will likely have his own attorney present.
Jones said he wanted to make sure that Kamensky isn’t improperly coached from someone off camera if the hearing is held by video conference instead of in the courtroom.
“I don’t trust him,” Jones said. “What he’s done is underhanded. What I want are assurances that he is going to be under oath without any help.”
When witnesses testify in federal court, they aren’t allowed to get help answering questions.
The company requested a preliminary injunction from a federal court in Texas to block Marble Ridge from distributing funds from any asset sale in connection with the wind-down of its operations, according to court filings on Wednesday. Neiman also asked to subordinate all of the firm’s claims against the company below the unsecured creditors, the filings show.
A representative for Neiman declined to comment.
In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, Marble Ridge vowed to fight Neiman in court and accused the retailer of rehashing old allegations made against the hedge fund by its private equity owners. “Marble Ridge remains willing and able to discuss its currently pending offer to purchase the MyTheresa shares and is willing to participate in an open and transparent auction,” it said.
The latest actions come after the U.S. Trustee’s office concluded Kamensky tried to dissuade a rival from bidding on Neiman’s MyTheresa assets. The investigation results have been turned over to federal prosecutors to determine whether the investment manager committed a crime.
Marble Ridge characterized itself as the largest single unsecured creditor of the luxury retailer as of its bankruptcy date, according to a report submitted by the U.S. Trustee. The New York-based asset management firm was founded in 2015 by Kamensky, a former partner at hedge fund Paulson & Co. who started his career as a bankruptcy attorney. The firm specializes in distressed debt investments and the restructuring of troubled issuers.
Kamensky had been vying to buy shares of MyTheresa from creditors and attempted to stop a competing bid from investment bank Jefferies Financial Group Inc. He sent messages to the bank threatening to cut off its relationship in a move that disrupted the company’s planned reorganization process, Neiman said.
The hedge fund had previously challenged Neiman by repeatedly criticizing the company for actions including moving its valuable MyTheresa assets to a subsidiary out of its reach.
“Marble Ridge believes this attempt to discredit Marble Ridge and interfere with its operations by concocting damages is vindictive retaliation and motivated by Marble Ridge having previously exposed wrongdoing of Neiman Marcus and its equity sponsors over the past two years,” the firm said in its emailed statement.
The hedge fund bought Neiman’s unsecured notes in the summer of 2018 and immediately began a public campaign attacking the retailer’s decision to treat MyTheresa as an unrestricted asset that could be transferred, according to Neiman’s complaint.
Marble Ridge claimed the transfer harmed creditors and eventually sued. Neiman defended itself and won after a Texas judge dismissed the case without looking at the underlying accusations about the transfer.
Neiman countersued, accusing Marble Ridge of defamation. That suit is still pending with at least one issue on appeal, Neiman said in court papers.
At a hearing last week, Jones raised the question of whether Marble Ridge’s recent actions had been referred to federal prosecutors to determine whether a criminal offense was made. Jones said he would set a further court hearing on the matter.
Neiman asked for a “full adversarial proceeding” to prosecute “given the severity of Marble Ridge’s actions,” the retailer said in the court document Wednesday. The firm’s actions “severely damaged” the company and its stakeholders, it said. Because of Marble Ridge’s interference with the bidding process, the recovery for unsecured creditors is now “uncertain.”
Under the retailer’s request to the judge, Marble Ridge must provide notice and a copy of the trustee’s report to any potential purchaser of its claims or interests in Neiman. The firm may also be subject to a $5 million fine to deter future misconduct, the filing shows.
The case is Neiman Marcus Group Ltd. LLC, 20-32519, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).
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