Why Steve Cohen’s SEC history shouldn’t hurt his Mets bid

Steve Cohen is known for many things: Billionaire, hedge-fund trader and owner of a $1 billion art collection that features sculptures and paintings by the likes of ­Picasso and Jeff Koons.

He may soon be something even more illustrious: Owner of the Mets.

He’s up against the celebrity duo of J-Rod (Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez) and the private-equity guys who own the Philadelphia 76ers. But many Mets fans, myself included, wish Cohen, 64, could have started running the team yesterday.

He’s got deep pockets, earning more than $1 billion last year (according to Bloomberg, numbers his people don’t dispute) on top of his fortune of around $15 billion. With his obvious love of the Amazins and willingness to spend, maybe “wait ’til next year” could actually be next year.

But there’s a whisper campaign to undermine Cohen’s bid — because Cohen’s name was high on the government’s hit list in its crackdown on insider trading nearly a decade ago.

I write this not as a Cohen hagiographer or hater, mind you. He and his people were less than happy with my coverage of his ­legal contretemps in years past.

That said, insider trading in my view is a largely victimless crime (no one forces the other side of the trade to buy the stock) and Cohen, for all the noise around his activities, was never criminally charged at all.

His old firm SAC Capital paid $1.8 billion in fines and settlements, pleaded guilty to insider trading and was shut down while he faced a two-year suspension from managing outside money on civil charges of failing to supervise people who did.

Meanwhile, of all the millions of trades done by his firm, insider trading alone could never have accounted for his amazing record returns for investors over the years, which is why he’s back in business.

Cohen isn’t a lock to be the Mets’ new owner. He faces competition from that aforementioned celebrity couple of former Yankee Alex Rodriguez and singer/actress Jennifer Lopez.

J-Rod, with the help of JPMorgan, has cobbled together a strange assortment of investors to form a bidding group that includes various other former sports stars as well as Mike Repole of the Vitaminwater franchise and Vincent Viola, who after a long and distinguished career on Wall Street now owns the NHL’s Florida Panthers.

Another serious bidder: Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, run by private-equity billionaires Josh Harris and David Blitzer. They have billions in the bank as well and they’ve used it to buy the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez
Jennifer Lopez and Alex RodriguezGC Images via Getty Images

Personally, I’d take a wealthy individual like Cohen, who grew up on Long Island, over the Philadelphia private-equity duo headquartered in Camden, NJ.

As for J-Rod, if you’re going to ding Cohen for the insider-trading investigation, what about Rodriguez’s transgressions on the ballfield with steroids?

We’ll see who takes the team. But Cohen’s history with the SEC shouldn’t be what sinks his chances.

Wall Streeters’ $igh of relief on ol’ Dem Joe

Joe Biden’s speech Thursday at the Democratic National Convention will never be confused with the Gettysburg Address. But it was good enough for his Wall Street fundraisers and friends to begin their final push to raise money for an ad blitz against President Trump by assuring donors that the gaffe-prone former veep is up for the job.

“Biden’s speech basically took away the notion that he’s Sleepy Joe,” one of his top Wall Street supporters told me.

Another said the moderate tone of the speech — his line that “I will work hard for those who didn’t support me . . . while I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president” — was further proof he won’t turn the party over to the crazies even if they spoke at the virtual convention — namely party radicals like Bernie Sanders and AOC.

“He knows defunding the police is crazy,” a Wall Street executive said. “He will definitely stand up to them.”

Fox Business’ Lydia Moynihan reports fund­raisers are expecting that their haul of Wall Street money will increase through the month. If Biden holds his own in the Sept. 29 first debate, expect even more cash, even from some Republican donors.

It all sounds plausible. Except it’s what Wall Street Dems said in 2016. And we know what happened next.


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