Join 3,551 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Crap - I only made $15B last year
September 26, 2008 10:16 AM   Subscribe

There are still some smart people left on Wall St. Hedge fund manager, John Paulson, made a cool $15B for his fund as the housing market imploded. His cut? $3-4B. Not too shabby for a year's worth of work.

Interestingly, Greenspan was an advisor to the hedge fund. How much did he make out in the housing decline?
posted by blahblah (45 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is there any possibility he's related to Henry?
posted by jourman2 at 10:31 AM on September 26, 2008


"After Odyssey, Mr. Paulson -- no relation to the Treasury secretary -- ..."
posted by Carol Anne at 10:38 AM on September 26, 2008


I don't doubt that theres peopel who'll be getting very rich out of this whole collapse-and-bailout thing. Like Russian Oligarch rich.
posted by Artw at 10:48 AM on September 26, 2008


How the hell is anyone supposed to get by on $15b during the credit crunch??

Let's bail this guy out. $700b should cover it.
posted by panboi at 10:50 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


A guy that decided as late as 2007 that the housing market was overinflated is consitered a financial genius on Wall Street? Jesus, we're fucked.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:51 AM on September 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


I misread $15B as $158 and thought "That's really not very much."
posted by owtytrof at 10:53 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


New York Probing Credit - Default Swap Market
posted by ornate insect at 10:55 AM on September 26, 2008


A guy that decided as late as 2007 that the housing market was overinflated is consitered a financial genius on Wall Street?

Plenty of investors lost their shirts betting against the housing and MBS markets starting back in '04, '05 and '06. Just like plenty of investors lost their shirts betting against the tech boom in '98 and '99. Shorting stocks and other securities that continue to rise is an incredibly expensive proposition.
posted by mullacc at 10:57 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not too shabby for a year's worth of work legalized robbery

FTFY
posted by ornate insect at 10:57 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not too shabby for a year's worth of work legalized robbery

Who exactly did this guy rob? If more people had taken this position it would have pushed housing prices down earlier, preventing the bubble from getting as bad as it has.
posted by atrazine at 11:06 AM on September 26, 2008


Not too shabby for a year's worth of legalized robbery

So it's not the guys who lied, cheated, and schemed to inflate prices far beyond their reasonable value, and who did so knowing full well that these prices were unsustainable in the long term, who are the robbers — it's the guy who noticed they were full of shit and called their bluff?

Goddamn does America hate a pessimist.
posted by enn at 11:08 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


enn: The pessimists, the optimists, they're all doing the same thing. Pushing numbers around, "making bets," producing nothing, and fucking the rest of us when their bets fail. It's not that America hates a pessimist. America hates a leech.
posted by rusty at 11:13 AM on September 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


Personally, I blame Suzanne Whang for driving the housing bubble to the bursting point.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:16 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


he used software that blocked fund investors from forwarding his emails
what
posted by exogenous at 11:22 AM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


By "made" you mean "made -- assuming his counterparties haven't gone bankrupt"

I mean up until a few weeks ago, someone who bought a ton of credit defaults swaps from AIG might have though that they were pretty smart.
posted by delmoi at 11:23 AM on September 26, 2008


By the way, short sellers are heros, in my view. If it haddn't been for short sellers Enron could have kept pulling their scam for who knows how long. It was short sellers who did the research and realized they were full of shit. It was short sellers who realized the economy was going to collapse and hastened it. If it hadn't been for them, the bubble could have kept growing and collapsed later on.
posted by delmoi at 11:25 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


rusty: Well, I haven't heard of any unlimited bailouts in $700bn increments going to short funds lately, but OK, certainly you can take the position that trading in equities is itself bad. I'm still getting a shoot-the-messenger feeling from the same sort of people who once excoriated Charles Ponzi's exposers rather than the man himself when the thing went pear-shaped. Management has a long and storied history of blaming the fallout from its mistakes (or fraud) on nebulous conspiracies of short-sellers, as do those whose long positions haven't turned out to be as brilliant as they'd thought. Personally I don't see anything wrong with separating fools from their money for a living. YMMV.

On preview: what delmoi said.
posted by enn at 11:28 AM on September 26, 2008


I don't blame this guy at all; he used his brains to analyze a situation, and extract a huge sum of cash from stupid people.

I do blame the system as a whole, where this kind of gambling pays off better than any other economic activity. You will do much, much better for yourself in life if you apply that mathematics or engineering degree to manipulating the wealth of others, instead of generating new wealth yourself. Instead of coming up with new ways to create buildings, you invent meta-notes that take a penny out of every building in the country.

Modern Wall Street is a casino, not a method of allocating wealth. At least, not to the producers of wealth; it's a tool for allocating wealth to the house, and a few players, while impoverishing most of the rest. It has become Vegas on a global scale.

If you get enough people extracting wealth instead of generating it, well, see current headlines.

It reminds me of the scene from Contact, when S.R. Hadden responds to the question of 'why are you giving me this money?' And he says, approximately, "It's a way of giving back a little to those who have given....(pauses) from whom I have taken so much."
posted by Malor at 11:28 AM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, and there's nothing really wrong with speculators or speculation, per se. But they're supposed to be on the fringe. Most derivatives are pure speculation, and the $500+ trillion in derivative notes dwarfs everything else in the financial system. It gives the players the leverage of having $500 trillion, without actually possessing anywhere near that real capital, and exerts the force on the economy as if a good chunk of that $500T really existed.

Derivatives are a form of fractional reserve banking that almost any entity past a certain size can start doing, and the Fed is so determined not to let the system fail that it is, in essence, turning derivatives into dollars. By backing the 'moneyness' of derivatives, it has brought a whole new class of money-creator to the table... damn near EVERYONE can create money now, and if you're big enough, the Fed will directly back you.

I don't think the Fed realizes this is what's going on, or how inflationary this process is. That's why stock and then house and then commodity prices have gone insane. The bailouts will just insure that more of the same will keep happening, but worse and worse and worse.
posted by Malor at 11:37 AM on September 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


Well, no matter what happens sombody will manage to make some money off it. This is not news.
posted by jonmc at 12:06 PM on September 26, 2008


I wish they'd asked me. I could completely fuck shit up for much less than a billion dollars, easy.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:10 PM on September 26, 2008


Whoopee, he's King Kontrarian Kleptocrat. Does that make him "smart"?
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:13 PM on September 26, 2008


Yes, honestly the short sellers are a force for good, helping the market recognize failure. But the main problem with short selling is that the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent. So many people have made smart short selling bets but been crushed by continued irrationality.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:18 PM on September 26, 2008


This is part of the same general problem that got us into the mess, isn't it?

First, make a very risky bet -- a bet that could lead to high return or to bankruptcy.

Paulo Pelligrini, a portfolio manager at Paulson & Co., began to implement complex debt trades that would pay off if mortgages lost value. One trade was to short risky CDO slices.

Second, run other people's money. That way you take a "small" slice (2% of the pot) if you are moderately unsuccessful and a big slice (the previous 2%, plus 20% of profits) if you are successful. What happens if you lose all your clients' money? Well, you don't lose anything personally.

Third, stick to your program no matter what happens.

"Someone from more of a trading background would have blown the trade out and cut his losses," says Peter Soros, a George Soros relative who invests in the Paulson funds. But "if anything, the losses made him more determined."

Result: Profit???
Sure, if you are lucky, like Mr. Paulson. But there were other "professionals" seemingly just as smart as Mr. Paulson who were taking equally risky bets on the other side, for just the same reason as him, the massive upside potential. But no matter what direction the housing market headed, someone (other than the money runner) was going to have massive, massive losses.

The real solution, it seems to me, is to design regulations that prevent money runners from creating for themselves massive upside potential without creating personal downside risk. What would have prevented someone from creating two hedge funds -- one that takes risky bets that the housing market will go up and one that does the opposite? Such a person could have made a slightly smaller fortune, essentially risk-free.

In short, we've created a system that rewards money-runners for creating risk, completely separate from any business need. This isn't free market; this is perverse incentives.
posted by ferdydurke at 12:30 PM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not too shabby for a year's worth of work legalized robbery

Anyone interested in how short-sellers really operate should read David Einhorn's recent book, Fooling Some of the People All of the Time, about his six year battle with Allied Capital, one of his short targets. It's a really fascinating blow-by-blow account of the whole process.
posted by mullacc at 12:52 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


enn: The pessimists, the optimists, they're all doing the same thing. Pushing numbers around, "making bets," producing nothing, and fucking the rest of us when their bets fail. It's not that America hates a pessimist. America hates a leech.
posted by rusty at 11:13 AM on September 26 [3 favorites +] [!]


Looking around it seems pretty clear to me that America likes a leech.
posted by salishsea at 1:02 PM on September 26, 2008


he used software that blocked fund investors from forwarding his emails
Y'know, of the two propositions "make $15 billion in a year" or "come up with a method to make email not forwardable [by non-dumb people]", I think the second would be a lot harder to do.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:14 PM on September 26, 2008


This reminds me of shooting craps where betting the pass line is considered "good form" but if you bet the other way and win, everyone at the table gives you the dirty looks, while the casino takes their chips.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:14 PM on September 26, 2008


enn: I don't blame this guy for the collapse or anything. I'm just not likely to bow down to his superior wisdom or goodness any more then any other gambler. So you hit the jackpot? Good for you. You still look like a jerkoff standing there at that one-armed bandit.

salishsea: Yeah. Looks that way to me too. When I say "America," I mean "Me, and people who think like me." Or, to put it another way: "Not America at all."
posted by rusty at 1:20 PM on September 26, 2008


Y'know, of the two propositions "make $15 billion in a year" or "come up with a method to make email not forwardable [by non-dumb people]", I think the second would be a lot harder to do.

Yeah, I was thinking how he managed that. I would guess his "email" was actually a link to content that used Flash or something to prevent easy copying from the page. Even then, there are screen capture programs, or at very least the analog hole such as taking a digital camera picture of the screen display, followed by OCR.
posted by exogenous at 1:56 PM on September 26, 2008


I don't blame this guy for the collapse or anything. I'm just not likely to bow down to his superior wisdom or goodness any more then any other gambler. So you hit the jackpot? Good for you. You still look like a jerkoff standing there at that one-armed bandit.

It is kind of like when I was teaching my friend to play craps. There's a slight edge to playing the don't pass bet compared to the pass bet, something like a tenth of a percent, but you don't want to be that guy. I've seen how emotional people get at craps, and I never understood it. There at least you have fixed probabilities, every time you play, you're just proving the central limit theorem.

I didn't realize there was so much emotion directed towards short players. I don't put value judgments on the direction, or why going down is "bad" and going "up" is good in the sense that they carry some sort of essence other than they are what someone is willing to pay for something at any given point in time.
posted by geoff. at 2:05 PM on September 26, 2008


I agree with you on craps. Taking a position has no effect on the outcome.

But with short selling, my understanding is that if enough people are shorting a stock, it will drive the price down. This was rumored (at least) to help bring about the demise of some of these entities.
posted by exogenous at 2:21 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


If the markets were truly "efficient" no one would be able to extract this much money.

There's some real service being done by a liquid market, don't get me wrong, but the fact is that this is basically an old boy's club that takes unreasonably large quantities of money off the top for transactions that should be near-frictionless and don't in general even bother to really cover their legal obligations.

i.e. I'm on the "license to steal" side, with an asterisk.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:28 PM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yeah, there's no self destructing email.

what about GUIDs and removal of the email from a server once it's read? Well, there's these things called cell phone cameras... though I suppose you could show only parts of the letters and have them rapidly switch between between frames that show individual parts of the letters in such a way that it would be impossible to figure out the message from one frame... but then you could just record the video... what about special LEDs that can receive data from a USB port, with both sides encrypted... well, go to it MyGyver.
posted by sleslie at 2:43 PM on September 26, 2008


i.e. I'm on the "license to steal" side, with an asterisk.

Fair enough. But as licenses to steal go, taking exorbitant fees for running a hedge fund is no getting your larcenous crony appointed secretary of the treasury that it may be looted of its last dregs and the proceeds split amongst the quality.
posted by enn at 2:59 PM on September 26, 2008


Speaking of smart people, what do the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President, the former Treasury Secretary, the head of the Congressional Budget Office, and many leading economists have in common? They all oppose the bailout.
posted by ornate insect at 3:30 PM on September 26, 2008


But as licenses to steal go, taking exorbitant fees for running a hedge fund is no getting your larcenous crony appointed secretary of the treasury that it may be looted of its last dregs and the proceeds split amongst the quality.

I see them as all part of the same problem myself.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:05 PM on September 26, 2008


The pessimists, the optimists, they're all doing the same thing. Pushing numbers around, "making bets," producing nothing

Isn't it in the essential nature of gambling, that some will win, some will lose?

So, this guy got lucky and made a few billion. Others lucked out and lost billions.

Praising the guy whose bet happened to come good would be like lauding some guy with his heavily marked-up form guide who managed to pick the trifecta in the Melbourne Cup. Except, of course, that the general public can also get something out of watching the horse race. At the very least, there's a public holiday for some.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:13 PM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bail out Main Street and not Wall Street. Give every adult $500,000 and let them do what they want with their money. It would be a better stimulus to the economy, cost far less than $700b and not reward the companies who got us into this mess. (at least not as much.)

disclosure: not really my original idea, but I like it better than bailing out Wall Street.
posted by Nauip at 4:15 PM on September 26, 2008


From what I've read, having a bad year at a hedge fund is kind of like the kiss of death. Your clients are paying for a good yield, and they generally don't have the patience or faith to give you another year with their money to get positive. And you're not going to get any new investors with a negative year in the prospectus.

So what happens when all the hedge funds are down?
posted by smackfu at 4:52 PM on September 26, 2008


Biggest party at my house when bush steps down in a couple months.... woooooooooooooooooooooohooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!
posted by jakubsnm at 4:53 PM on September 26, 2008


Bail out Main Street and not Wall Street. Give every adult $500,000 and let them do what they want with their money. It would be a better stimulus to the economy, cost far less than $700b and not reward the companies who got us into this mess. (at least not as much.)

I bet you could get the plasma tv companies, the VegasPAC and the USMOTLFSO* to lobby very hard for this plan.

*United States Manufacturers of Tacky Lawn Furniture,Statues, and Ornaments
posted by billyfleetwood at 5:52 PM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Maybe we will know more precisely HOW he made those 15b? But I guess not in this life...
posted by mg1313 at 1:50 AM on September 28, 2008


Did anyone notice this article is from January, and was talking about 2007?
posted by smackfu at 10:37 AM on September 28, 2008


Bail out Main Street and not Wall Street. Give every adult $500,000 and let them do what they want with their money. It would be a better stimulus to the economy, cost far less than $700b and not reward the companies who got us into this mess. (at least not as much.)

I'm fairly poor at anything involving numbers but, 700 billion divided by estimated 230 million comes out to somewhere around $32,000 each, which is obviously, still quite a boost to the plasma tv sales, but not quite EVERYONE BUYS A SWEET HOUSE SO THE MARKETS ARE AWESOME NOW level.

Now just pay for everyone's health care and education so they can have a better chance to afford their mortgage payments, and I'm on board.
posted by haveanicesummer at 2:06 PM on September 28, 2008


« Older Slow Food Nation '08 was a four-day conference wi...  |  Typography for Laywers.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments