Last April, Barrett Wissman of Dallas became the first to roll over publicly in New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomos pension fund kickback investigation. At least some who knew him say they were not surprised.
Wissman always moved in wealthy circles. The son of a local businessman, he attended St. Marks, one of Dallass most prestigious private schools. It was there he made friends with Clark Hunt, a scion of the wealthy Hunt family. Clarks uncles Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt attempted, but failed, to corner the silver market in the 1970s; Clarks dad, Lamar Hunt, founded the American Football League.
A talented pianist and linguist, Wissman graduated from Yale University in 1985 and then worked for investment bank Lazard Frères in New York. He returned to Dallas in 1987 to run the family fertilizer business, but sold it in 1993 not long after he and Clark Hunt founded HW Capital, an investment business, and a hedge fund called Infinity Investors.
Wissman was also trying to get rich in the dot-com boom and had an ally in Steven Loglisci. The two reportedly met when Loglisci was working on H. Ross Perots 1992 presidential campaign. In the late 1990s, Wissman tapped Loglisci to take over e.Volve Technology Group, a firm where Wissman was a board member. In 2000, on Logliscis recommendation, then New Jersey senator Robert Torricelli purchased shares in e.Volve, which was later acquired by another Wissman-founded firm. The acquisition created a huge paper profit for investors but raised questions over whether Loglisci knew the acquisition was in the works when he suggested that Torricelli invest (the New Jersey Democrat later decided not to run for reelection because of an unrelated finance scandal). Ultimately, it made no difference. By mid-2001 e.Volve was in bankruptcy.
Other investors in e.Volve included Elliott Broidy and David Loglisci, Stevens brother. A former New York Senate staffer, David was hired as head of alternative investments for the New York State Common Retirement Fund in 2003 and promoted to CIO the following year.
Around 2003, Wissman was looking to raise funds for HFV Asset Management, which he had co-founded with Clark Hunt, and met with New York comptroller Alan Hevesis powerful consultant, Hank Morris.
According to charges filed by Cuomo and the Securities and Exchange Commission, Morris solicited payment from Wissman, now 47, in return for an investment by the retirement fund in HFV. As a result of the alleged shakedown, HFV received a $100 million commitment from New York Common and Morris pocketed $600,000 in placement fees.
Many of Cuomos charges appear to have been corroborated by Wissman, who allegedly became part of Morriss network of fraud and made more than $12 million in his illicit placement agent work. Wissman introduced Morris to Riverstone Holdings, a New Yorkbased private equity firm that focuses on energy investments, which allegedly gave placement fees indirectly to HFV and entities affiliated with Morris. One Riverstone partner even made a $100,000 investment in a low-budget independent film called Chooch, the Italian word for jackass, which Steven Loglisci was helping to produce.
In April, HFV and Wissman settled with the SEC without admitting or denying guilt; HFV paid a $150,000 civil penalty. But Wissman, who paid $12 million in penalties and forfeiture to New York State, still faces sentencing from a New York court after pleading guilty to charges of securities fraud. His days in high society may be over.
See related story, "Pension Pay To Play Casts Shadow Nationwide".