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Bill Gross Sues PIMCO "Cabal" Over Ouster, Seeks "Hundreds Of Millions", Blames El-Erian

When Bill Gross exited PIMCO last October, it came as somewhat of a shock despite the fact that the outspoken “King” of the bond market had a reputation for being incorrigible and somewhat difficult to get along with in the boardroom. 

Now, Gross is set to sue the asset management firm he put on the map for "hundreds of millions" in connection with what he says was a “plot” by an evil, internal “cabal” to facilitate his ouster. Here are the bullet points:

  • BILL GROSS SUES PIMCO FOR AT LEAST $200M: CNBC
  • GROSS TO CLAIM HE IS OWED AT LEAST $200 MILLION DAMAGES
  • GROSS TO CLAIM PIMCO EXECS CONSPIRED TO GET HIS PROFITS
  • GROSS TO SUE PIMCO FOR `HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS' OVER OUSTER

And here's Bloomberg's first take:

Bill Gross sued Pacific Investment Management Co. and parent Allianz SE for “hundreds of millions of dollars,” claiming he was wrongfully pushed out as the bond giant’s chief investment officer by a “cabal” of executives seeking a bigger slice of the bonus pool.

 

“Driven by a lust for power, greed, and a desire to improve their own financial position and reputation at the expense of investors and decency, a cabal of Pimco managing directors plotted to drive founder Bill Gross out of Pimco in order to take, without compensation, Gross’s percentage ownership in the profitability of Pimco,” according to the complaint, which Gross’s lawyers said was filed Thursday in California state court in Santa Ana. “Their improper, dishonest, and unethical behavior must now be exposed.”

 

A draft of the complaint was obtained by Bloomberg. The filing couldn’t be immediately confirmed in court records.

 

The lawsuit presents a detailed account of the events leading up to Gross’s departure on Sept. 26 last year, a move that rattled bond markets and promptedrecord redemptions at what once was the world’s largest mutual fund. It portrays Gross as an advocate for lower fees and traditional, lower-risk bond investments who was pushed out gradually by other executives seeking to expand into riskier assets and higher-fee products.

 

Gross, 71, claims the Newport Beach, California-based firm owes him at least "hundreds of millions" for wrongful termination, breach of written contract, and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, according to the document.

 

Gross was expecting a bonus of about $250 million for 2014, with most of that due in the second half of the year, according to the lawsuit. Because he left the firm days before the third quarter ended, Pimco refused to pay him a proportionate amount, said the complaint, which claims that his termination resulted in damages to Gross of no less than $200 million.

And here's DealBook with some further color: 

The man known as the bond king, William H. Gross, is suing the company that he built into one of the largest asset managers in the world, providing his own colorful version of an ugly feud that led to his departure last year.

 

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday, represents a bold effort by Mr. Gross to repair the damage that was done to his reputation in the year before and after he was fired from Pimco.

 

News media reports have portrayed Mr. Gross’s departure as a product of his erratic and domineering behavior at the firm he helped found in 1971.

 

Mr. Gross is seeking “in no event less than $200 million” from Pimco for breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, among other causes of action. But to underscore the degree to which the suit is motivated by Mr. Gross’s desire to correct the public record, he has promised to donate any money he recovers to charity, his lawyer, Patricia L. Glaser, said.

 

Pimco did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

 

The lawsuit presents a picture of Pimco — an asset manager based in California that is responsible for billions of dollars in retirement savings — as a den of intrigue riven by back stabbing and competing egos.

 

The first sentence of the suit says that Mr. Gross was pushed out by a “cabal” of Pimco managing directors who were “driven by a lust for power, greed, and a desire to improve their own financial position.”

 

“Their improper, dishonest, and unethical behavior must now be exposed,” the opening paragraph concludes.

They say reality is often stranger than fiction and this lawsuit seems to support that contention. Apparently, Mohamed El-Erian was aiming to move PIMCO aggressively into the derivatives market, something Gross was opposed to. After El-Erian moved to parent Allianz, "leaks" blaming Gross for El-Erian's departure served to stir up trouble. The leaks, apparently, came from none other than the man who just last month said the Fed may find it impossible to escape from ZIRP: Mr. Andrew Balls. Via The Times, again:

The lawsuit locates the beginning of the problems in Mr. Gross’s decision to bring Mr. El-Erian to Pimco in 2007 to groom him as a potential successor. Mr. El-Erian was at Pimco previously, but in 2007 he was running Harvard University’s endowment.

 

When Mr. El-Erian returned, the suit says, he was eager to push Pimco beyond the bond funds that had traditionally been its strength and wanted to use “a host of high-risk derivative asset classes” he had learned about at Harvard. The suit says the returns on the funds that Mr. El-Erian ran at Pimco were “abysmal.”

 

According to the suit, Mr. Gross offered to step back from everything but his bond funds, but this scared Mr. El-Erian and led him to “abruptly” announce his resignation in early 2014.

 

At the time, Mr. El-Erian said he was stepping back to write another book and spend more time with his family.

 

Almost immediately after Mr. El-Erian’s departure, leaks to the news media attributed the blame for his departure to Mr. Gross.

 

An internal Pimco investigation determined that the leaks had come from Andrew Balls, a fast-rising star at Pimco who previously worked as a journalist at The Financial Times, the suit says. When Mr. Balls was confronted, the suit says, Mr. Balls initially denied that he was responsible but then, when shown the evidence, changed his story.

 

According to the suit, Mr. Gross pushed for Mr. Balls to be fired, but instead Pimco executives had him sign a document suggesting that he had only given out general information about Pimco and agreed that Mr. Balls would remain at Pimco. Mr. Balls is now one of five co-chief investment officers under Mr. Ivascyn.

So what allegedly happened here is that El-Erian was pushing hard to steer the ship into what Gross thought were dangerous, derivatives-laden waters and when the friction between the two led to El-Erian's "transition", the news got out, prompting Bill to squeeze PIMCO's Balls. 

We'll simply leave you with the following summary of what Gross thinks he "deserves":

Gross was expecting a bonus of about $250 million for 2014, with most of that due in the second half of the year, according to the lawsuit. Because he left the firm days before the third quarter ended, Pimco refused to pay him a proportionate amount, said the complaint, which claims that his termination resulted in damages to Gross of no less than $200 million.