NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. prosecutors are exploring whether they can use a federal law originally enacted to take down the mafia, in a sprawling probe of hedge funds and research firms that bet against stocks, according to two sources familiar with the situation.
The Justice Department last year issued subpoenas to dozens of firms, including such well-known names as Citron Research and Muddy Waters Research LLC, as part of the sweeping probe focused on potentially manipulative trading around negative reports on listed companies published by some of their investors, Reuters and other media have reported.
While prosecutors haven’t made any decisions yet, potential charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) were an option on the table, the sources said.
In the past, prosecutors have built RICO cases alongside other allegations, such as manipulation. One of the most high profile cases brought under the RICO Act included that of Michael Milken, who was indicted in the 1980s for racketeering and securities fraud but reached a plea deal, pleading guilty to securities violations but not racketeering or insider trading.