What: Shares of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group (NYSE:OZM) kicked off trading on Tuesday in a free fall, plunging nearly 21% as of 10:50 a.m. ET.
So what: After the market close on Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Och-Ziff is facing a possible criminal guilty plea following a Justice Department investigation of bribery. The unnamed sources suggested that regulators may seek damages of up to $400 million from the company for allegedly bribing Libyan officials to encourage their investment in one of its funds.
Last year, the company also came under scrutiny for having made a $100 million loan to the Zimbabwean government in 2008, which was funneled through one of its portfolio companies. In its annual report for 2015, Och-Ziff noted that it was not subject to any legal proceedings that it expected "to have a material impact" on its consolidated financial statements.
To put the potential cost in perspective, a $400 million charge is roughly equal to one-third of its shareholders' equity, last reported to stand at $1.24 billion at the end of December 2015.
Now what: This marks yet another discouraging development from a consistently underperforming asset manager. Separately, the company recently reported in an 8-K filing that its funds lost about $1 billion of fee-earning assets under management in March 2016, despite positive performance from all three of its major strategies.