The SEC charged John M. Fife (Fife) and Clarion Management, LLC (Clarion Management) with engaging in a fraudulent scheme to purchase variable annuity contracts issued by the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company (Lincoln) for Clarion Capital, LP (Clarion Capital) in order to engage in market timing. Clarion Capital was a Chicago hedge fund formed to market time international mutual funds available through variable annuities. According to the complaint, at all relevant times, Fife controlled Clarion Capital and carried out the scheme through Clarion Management, the hedge fund's general partner and unregistered investment adviser.
The complaint alleges that Fife and Clarion Management used deceptive tactics to purchase contracts and engage in market timing for the benefit of Clarion Capital. These tactics included using trusts and limited liability companies as nominee contract owners and beneficiaries to conceal Clarion Capital's financial interest in the variable annuity contracts. After the purchase of each contract, Fife and Clarion Management engaged in market timing until their activity was detected and restricted by Lincoln. The complaint also alleges that when Lincoln imposed certain trading restrictions, Fife and Clarion Management caused the trusts to surrender the contracts, and then used deceptive means to disguise the purchase of more variable annuity contracts, including using previously unused trusts and limited liability companies. Through this deception, the complaint alleges that Fife and Clarion Management made hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits for themselves at the expense of the other shareholders in the mutual funds.