By Scott Waxman and Marisa DiLemme
In Levey v. Brownstone Asset Mgmt., LP, et al., the plaintiff, Gordon Levey (“Levey”), and the three individual defendants worked together as principals in a financial services boutique, Brownstone Investment Group LLC. Operating out of the same office, Levey and the three defendants also ran a hedge fund. In this action, Levey, after resigning from the financial services boutique, sought a declaration that he continued to own equity in two of the entities through which the boutique operated: (1) Brownstone Investment Partners LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, which was the passive manager of the hedge fund (the “Passive Manager”); and (2) Brownstone Asset Management LP, a Delaware limited partnership, which was the active manager of the hedge fund (the “Active Manager”). Levey sought a declaration that he continued to hold a 5% interest in the Passive Manager and the Active Manager, and if he did remain an owner of those interests, he demanded his proportionate share of all past distributions made by those entities. He also sought an order requiring the defendants to identify any undisclosed profits (from which he would presumably also seek his share).
The court first addressed the critical factual issue of whether Levey withdrew from the Passive Manager and the Active Manager on January 26, 2006. Levey argued that he may have tried to withdraw but failed in the attempt, while the defendants argued that he could and did withdraw. The court found that an objective viewer would regard Levey as withdrawing, listing actions that support this conclusion – he turned in his keys, he cut up his corporate charge card and building identification card, and the other principals and employees of the firm gathered together and said goodbye to him. He also withdrew his personal funds that were invested in the hedge fund. Levey argued that he intended to resign as an employee and to withdraw from the financial services boutique, but not to withdraw from the Passive Manager and the Active Manager. However, based on the dislike Levey had expressed for his partners, the court did not find it credible that he wanted to maintain his relationship with his partners through the Passive Manager and the Active Manager. Therefore, the court found that Levey withdrew from the Passive Manager and the Active Manager on January 26, 2006.