Sunday, April 19, 2009

Email sparks allegations of racism against Austin Capital Management

An email sent earlier this week from local hedge fund manager Austin Capital Management Ltd. has raised the eyebrows and ire of at least one Austin group.

The U.S. Hispanic Contractor’s Association de Austin sent a statement out April 16 in reaction to the email, which reads “Tax Reminder...April 15, 2009” and has a picture of four Hispanic males with a caption that reads “Muchas Gracias! 21 million illegal aliens are depending on you!” The email went out to a list of undisclosed recipients.

“The content of the beyond offensive to the Hispanic community,” Frank Fuentes, chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association, said in the statement. “Messages, such as the one sent out by [the company] serves to do nothing more than propagate fear and fans the fires of ignorance and hatred toward a group that toils tirelessly, in oftentimes underappreciated crafts, for the good of themselves, their families and for ALL individuals who call America their home.”

A spokesman for Austin Capital Management released a statement saying "we sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by this email. Neither [parent company] KeyCorp nor Austin Capital Management authorized or condones the insensitive content of the email or its distribution. As all employee matters are confidential, we are unable to comment on details of this particular situation. Please be assured we take these matters very seriously, and are taking appropriate action."

Fuentes said Austin Capital Management executives have contacted him, confirmed that the email was sent from the company, apologized and requested a meeting with him.

“The email speaks for itself, and in our opinion, was incredibly racist. We felt like we had to make a statement,” Fuentes said. “Austin Capital Management’s Web site says [the company is] active in the community. They need to know the community they’re working in.”

Austin Capital Management made headlines earlier this spring when two law firms filed a class action lawsuit against the company over its role in the Bernard Madoff debacle.

Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP filed a suit in early April on behalf of investors in Austin Capital hedge funds during the period between Jan. 2, 2005 and Dec. 11, 2008. The suit seeks to recover losses resulting from Austin Capital’s placement of investors’ money into funds managed by confessed Ponzi-scheme organizer Madoff and his firm.

And in February, Philadelphia-based law firm Spector Roseman Kodroff & Willis filed a similar class action suit led by the Pension Fund for Hospital and Health Care Employees — Philadelphia and Vicinity and a group of similar funds.



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