Byju's Florida hedge fund ally may face jail time over missing $533 million - Hindustan Times

Byju's Florida hedge fund ally may face jail time over missing $533 million

Bloomberg |
Mar 05, 2024 01:35 PM IST

Byju's Crisis: Morton has recently hired criminal lawyers to represent him, Pieter Van Tol, one of his attorneys, told Dorsey during a bankruptcy hearing.

The founder of a small Florida hedge fund could be jailed for refusing to reveal where Indian tech firm Think & Learn Pvt allegedly hid $533 million that lenders are trying to recover, according to a federal judge.

Byju's Crisis: Byju's logo is seen.(Reuters)
Byju's Crisis: Byju's logo is seen.(Reuters)

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William C. Morton could be locked up for contempt of court if he can’t explain why he disobeyed a court order to provide details about the money, which was briefly placed with his hedge fund, Camshaft Capital Fund. US Bankruptcy Judge John Dorsey scheduled a hearing for later this month in Delaware to decide what should happen to the founder for defying a court order.

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“I want to make sure it is absolutely clear to Mr. Morton that one of the possible remedies is civil confinement if he doesn’t comply,” said Dorsey, referring to the federal rules that allow judges in non-criminal cases to jail people.

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Morton has recently hired criminal lawyers to represent him, Pieter Van Tol, one of his attorneys, told Dorsey during a bankruptcy hearing Monday. Dorsey said he warned the hedge fund founder during a hearing last week that “it would be in his best interest” to attend today’s proceeding in Wilmington, Delaware.

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Instead, Morton left the country during the middle of last week’s hearing, Van Tol told Dorsey.

“We advised Mr. Morton that he should produce the information, that he should produce the documents and he declined,” Van Tol said during Monday’s hearing.

Lenders accuse Morton of helping Indian tech firm Think & Learn hide $533 million from them. The missing money is at the heart of a fight between lenders owed $1.2 billion and Think & Learn, the education-tech startup founded by entrepreneur Byju Raveendran.

The cash belongs to a bankrupt shell company, Byju’s Alpha Inc., which is affiliated with Think & Learn and was taken over by the lenders after their loan defaulted. The $533 million was transferred to Morton’s hedge fund and then moved to an unnamed, off-shore trust by Raveendran’s brother, Riju Ravindran, Byju’s Alpha lawyer Benjamin Finestone said last week.

Morton is not main player in the dispute, Finestone said in court.

“There is obviously somebody else behind Mr. Morton who is funding,” him, Finestone said.

Byju’s Alpha and the lenders have only targeted Morton and his hedge fund in order to find out where Ravindran ultimately parked the cash.

Camshaft initially fought efforts to disclose details about the money because a hedge fund has a duty to protect its clients, Van Tol told Dorsey last week.

Last year lenders declared a default and seized Byju’s Alpha, whose parent is Think & Learn. Since then lenders have tried to force Think & Learn to repay the $1.2 billion and to find the $533 million that they say should be used to repay the debt.

Ravindran is appealing a Delaware Chancery Court ruling that gave lenders control of Byju’s Alpha.

The US bankruptcy case is BYJU’s Alpha Inc., 24-10140, US Bankruptcy Court District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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