(Reuters) - Little-known brokerage firm Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co has long toiled in the shadows of Wall Street, but the boutique suddenly has been thrust into the limelight because of an "ideas dinner" it sponsored last month for a group of about 18 hedge fund tradersHedge fund dinner party sparks U.S. euro probe | Reuters
Monness Crespi sponsors unscripted dinners from time to time, said people familiar with the get-togethers. They provide a chance for managers to swap trading ideas, network with their peers and meet some of Monness Crespi's largely equity-focused analysts.
A February 8 dinner is sparking controversy because one of the nearly two dozen topics discussed during the program was how hedge funds could profit from a decline in the euro, one of the world's most heavily traded currencies.
The portion of the program, at the Park Avenue Townhouse restaurant on Manhattan's Upper East Side, devoted to trading the euro took up no more than five minutes, according to people familiar with the event.
But ever since the Wall Street Journal wrote about the dinner and the discussion about the euro in a February 25 article, a shadow has been cast over much of the $1.5 trillion hedge fund industry.
The dinner adds to the growing perception among the general public and some political leaders that many hedge funds prosper by making money off misery -- whether it is betting on the decline of a stock, a bond, a currency or even a country's debt.
The U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust division has sent letters to a number of hedge funds that attended the February 8 dinner, asking the funds not to destroy any trading records involving market bets on the euro, said people familiar with the situation.