Feds investigating hedge fund over management of employee pensions at local newspapers

A hedge fund that controls more than 100 newspapers and is seeking to acquire Gannett is under federal investigation for the handling of its pension fund, according to The Washington Post.

Alden Global Capitol is the controlling owner of newspapers including the Boston Herald and Denver Post, and has been attempting to purchase McLean, Va.-based Gannett, which includes USA Today and more than 100 other papers, according to the Post.

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The hedge fund caught the eye of Department of Labor investigators after it moved nearly $250 million in employee pension savings into its own accounts, according to the Post. In some cases it moved 90 percent of retirees’ savings into two Alden-controlled funds, most of which has been moved back since, according to the story.

Federal law, with some exemptions, bans pension managers from taking excessive risks with the assets entrusted to them, and a hedge fund spokesperson confirmed to the Post that Alden is being investigated by the federal department due to the move. The department issued subpoenas to the hedge fund and its partners last year, according to the Post, citing a person familiar with the agency’s inquiry.

Alden and Media News Group (MNG), the brand that controls the papers owned by the hedge fund, have already been under scrutiny due to deep cuts associated with their acquisition of local newspapers and the revelation may complicate Alden’s bid to acquire Gannett, the nation’s largest chain of daily papers, according to the Post.

“MNG believes that Alden’s management of the pension plan assets for which it provided management services has at all times complied with all legal requirements, including ERISA [the Employee Retirement Income Security Act],” Media News Group spokesman Hugh Burns told the Post.