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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Class-Action Lawyers Attack Third Avenue

News summary by MFWire's editors

A month after the now-infamous fall of the Third Avenue Focused Credit Fund, class-action lawyers have struck.

Jacob H. Zamansky
Zamansky LLC
Bloomberg and Reuters both report that on Friday Vermont resident William Engel filed a $500-million, putative class-action lawsuit in Third Avenue's hometown, New York City. The lawsuit accuses Third Avenue of gross negligence for not ensuring adequate liquidity to protect the fund.

Reuters reveals that Engel, a 75-year-old retiree, is represented by Jacob Zamansky, founder of Zamansky LLC (also based in New York City).

The wire service also notes that the suit targets both Third Avenue Management itself and several Third Avenue executives, including founder and chairman Marty Whitman and ex-CEO David Barse.

Zamansky and another class-action law firm, San Francisco-based Sparer Law Group, both publicly unveiled investigations into Third Avenue in December, just days after Focused Credit collapsed and Barse left.

This is not Zamansky's first look at the mutual fund space. Three years ago the law firm was reportedly investigating revenue sharing fee payments to several wealth management firms.

Fundsters interested in the DC I-O space may also recognize Zamansky as a law firm that looks into employers who use their own company inside their 401(k)s. Zamansky has been involved in a number of such 401(k) "stock drop" cases over the years. Per our sister publication, 401kWire, Zamansky's stock drop targets have included: Caterpillar, HP, RadioShack (at least twice), and Sears.

Per Zamansky's website, the folks at the law firm pitch it as "a leading securities fraud law firm located in the heart of Wall Street. They list employment cases, ERISA, hedge fund litigation, securities arbitration, structured products, and whistleblower cases as other focuses for the firm.

Reuters says that Engel had $20,000 invested in the Focused Credit Fund. Zamansky is pushing for at least $500 million in restitution and damages for Engel and other investors in the fallen fund. Thanks to both outflows and rough performance, the fund fell from $2.97 billion in assets back in 2014 to $789 million when Third Avenue shut the doors on it last month.

The suit comes shortly after word leaked that SEC examiners are digging into the rest of the high-yield bond mutual fund marketplace. The folks at the SEC blessed Third Avenue's revised shutdown plan for the Focused Credit Fund. 

Edited by: Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

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