NEW YORK/MUNICH, May 17 (Reuters) -
Germany's Allianz SE (ALVG.DE) will pay about $6 billion and its U.S. asset management unit will plead guilty to fraud over the collapse of its multibillion dollar Structured Alpha funds amid market turmoil triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Justice, which announced the payout and plea, also said Gregoire Tournant, the former chief investment officer overseeing the Structured Alpha funds, is being indicted for conspiracy, securities fraud, investment advisor fraud and obstruction of justice.
According to court papers, Allianz Global Investors US LLC will plead guilty to a securities fraud charge, while the payout includes a $2.33 billion fine, $3.24 billion of restitution and $463 million of forfeiture.
The Justice Department also said Allianz is paying a $675 million civil fine to settle a related U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe.
Two former portfolio managers, Stephen Bond-Nelson and Trevor Taylor, agreed to plead guilty to related fraud and conspiracy charges.
Allianz said the sums named by the Justice Department were already covered by its provisions.Its shares were up 0.97% in afternoon trade.
Lawyers for the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment. Tournant surrendered to authorities in Denver, Colorado.
The Structured Alpha funds once had more than $11 billion of assets under management, but lost more than $7 billion as the early spread of COVID-19 upended markets in February and March 2020.
According to court papers, Allianz misled teacher pension funds, religious groups, bus drivers, engineers and other investors as early as 2014 by understating the funds' risks and overstating how well the funds were being monitored. read more
"As a result of the fraudulent scheme, the performance of the funds, and therefore the profits that flowed to AGI US and up to its parent companies, were inflated, as was the compensation paid to the individual defendants," the department said.
Tournant's pay was the highest or second-highest at the unit from 2015 to 2019, with he and Taylor each being paid $13 million in 2019, court papers show.
Allianz had previously set aside 5.6 billion euros ($5.9 billion) to settle, reducing earnings, frustrating shareholders and prompting some top managers to reduce their own pay.
The company, also known for its insurance operations, is among Germany's most recognizable brands and an Olympic sponsor. The Allianz Arena near its Munich headquarters is home to Bayern Munich, one of world's best-known soccer teams.