Former Park Hill exec pleads guilty in kick-back scandal

Julio Ramirez, who left Blackstone-affiliated placement agent Park Hill in March, has reportedly pleaded guilty to securities fraud. The allegations stem from the time Ramirez was employed by Wetherly Capital, prior to joining Park Hill; Blackstone says its internal investigation revealed no misconduct at Park Hill.

The New York Attorney General’s office will soon reveal that Julio Ramirez has pleaded guilty to misdemeanour charges of securities fraud related to the New York State Common Retirement Fund kick-back scandal, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to file a separate civil suit, the paper said.

Ramirez – who worked for Blackstone Group-affiliated placement agent Park Hill Group from 2005 to March, and previously for Los Angeles-based placement agent Wetherly Capital – was reportedly an associate of Henry Morris. Morris is a former political operative in New York accused of being the central figure in an alleged scheme to demand sham finder’s fees from investment firms seeking pension commitments.

Morris and several others have been indicted, including Saul Meyer, founder of Dallas private equity advisor Aldus Equity. Morris has denied wrongdoing and Meyer has pleaded not guilty to charges of securities fraud brought by the New York Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo. The SEC has filed separate civil complaints.

Aldus’ attorney, Matthew Orwig, said previously the SEC charges are “appalling and careless with the law and peoples’ reputations”. The SEC charged Aldus “without completing an investigation or even having a conversation with Aldus partners before it took legal action”, Orwig said.

According to the New York Attorney General’s indictment cited by the Wall Street Journal, Ramirez and his company Ramirez Partners received payments from Wetherly as well as Aldus; Ramirez would then in turn pay Morris. Wetherly has not been charged with any wrongdoing and is cooperating with the investigations, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

“Ramirez informed us that this was how Morris wanted to be paid for his services,” a Wetherly spokesman told the paper.

“Two of these payments, for a combined $313,750, are described in the indictment as money laundering by Morris,” the paper said.

A Blackstone spokesman said that Ramirez left Park Hill of his own accord in late March, saying he wanted a “lifestyle” change and had “the desire to start his own firm”.

“After he left, his name started to pop up in this [kick-back] investigation so we began our own internal investigations,” the spokesman said. The firm found no evidence of any misconduct or violations during Ramirez's tenure, he said.