Hedging Can't Fix This - A Story of Being at a Collapsed Hedge Fund

11 months after working right after college, I was fortunate enough to stumble on a LinkedIn post looking for a junior investment analyst at a hedge fund. I pounced at the opportunity without thought, and even though it was quite a small shop ($500mm), and was fortunate enough to be hired. Coming from a non-target, this was a dream.

The Exposure Was Great At First

The first few years, the exposure was great. I learned how to model and value some of the most complex structures on the street, was mentored, understood all types of risk scenarios, learned how to hedge, represented the company in Roadshows, and worked to set myself up to move into managing a portion of the book. The only unfortunate thing was, assets that I worked on started to be less yieldy, as traders and investment managers began to see and realize there was still inherent value in these instruments. Our returns decreased each year, and since some of these instruments difficult/impossible to repo, management decided we needed to expand into other strategies to increase return and attract new investors. We tried to look at CDS, equity shorts, and non-IG corporate debt, but they didn't pan out as planned.

He Even Got a Special Toast During our Christmas Dinner

The pivot then brought in a rates and macro trader for diversification, and boy, did it work out. His returns were in the high teens. More and more money was allocated to him, and the CIO was thrilled to tout his skills and outsized returns to our investors. He even got a special toast during our Christmas dinner. Everything was great, until it wasn't.

One day a few months later, the macro trader, the CIO, and the head trader looked nervous, and continued to shuffle in and out of meetings. Something seemed off.  The next Monday, the investment analysts were pulled into a meeting with the head trader and CIO, where we were told we were liquidating the main portfolio (AON bids). They were not telling us why, and there would be no questions. Obviously, something was wrong. 

The employees continued to speculate on what was going on, to no avail. One day, the macro trader went into a meeting in our conference room. Him and the CIO stayed all day. Multiple different 'suits' that we had never seen before walked into the conference room. We all were clueless as to what was going on. Speculation continued between us on the desk.

Later that afternoon/night, I found myself being the last one on the desk. Suddenly, the macro trader walked out of the room, surrounded by the suits. He pointed out his desk, and was then asked to stand on the wall directly in front of his desk between two of the suits. Two other suits approached the desk; one then began ransacking his desk and belongings, taking every notepad, post-it, cell phone, and mail from the drawers. The other went to the desktop computer, unplugged it, and took it under his arm. When they finished, all of the suits walked out of the office with the belongings, with the trader between them. I haven't seem him since.

After word got out about what occurred, and everyone noticed his obvious disappearance, it became obvious the trader did something nefarious. Sure enough, a week later, a conference call/meeting was held where the CIO let us know the fund would shut down in the next 2 weeks.

The Trader Had Gone Rogue

It turns out, the trader went rogue and committed fair value accounting fraud. He continuously was misrepresenting LIBOR (choosing for difference sources) or other spread curves used to value his positions, inflating the returns and value. The marks, of course, were directly responsible for his compensation, netting him millions off of fake gains. When trades started going sideways, he did not own up to his position's outcome and take the loss. Instead, he utilized more funds, doubled-down on his bets, and continued to misrepresent fair value, hoping for a turn in the market to erase his losses. Eventually, the ability to cover his tracks imploded, and compliance/back office staff figured out the scheme.

Since returns were misrepresented to clients, there was no other choice to close shop, and the the firm self-reported to the SEC. We were devastated, and unemployment was in our future. There are still a few people who have yet to recover. Some co-workers were in depositions and part of the SEC investigation for years.

He Was Arrested Again...

Once the story broke, the rogue trader claimed the CIO was in on it the whole time and was using him as a scapegoat. While at first most of us thought it was plausible and probable for years (after all, it was a small shop), the tune changed when, just recently, he was arrested AGAIN by the SEC for a ponzi scheme, stealing money from neighbors, friends, and even family. To make matters worse, he was already suspended from the industry and used his families brokerage accounts to mask his identity. The most likely outcome is he will be barred from the financial industry for the rest of his life, owe millions in reparations, and potentially face jail time.

Funds Fail Much, Much More Often Than You Think

The point of the story is to bring people back down to earth to realistic scenarios that can happen to any one of us in the financial industry. Funds fail much, much more than you think. There are bad people working out there who will have no remorse for their fellow co-worker. If you ever spoke to this what I will now call sociopath, you would never, EVER, think that he would do something like this. He was one of the nicest, funniest, soft-spoken and humble people working at the firm. Clearly, his facade worked, and masked the devil inside.

This is a cautionary, interesting story that most of you will never experience. I truly hope that none of you ever experience it.

If you have any other questions or comments, please feel free to message me or ask below.

Comments (26)

  • Investment Analyst in HF - EquityHedge
Jan 30, 2022 - 3:38pm

Thanks for sharing this. While painful, seems fortunate it was early in your career. Can you talk about the immediate next steps you took? Sounds like you were 27-29 yo, prob had some money in the bank. Did you just call a HH and go into another fund? Or was the black mark of the fund troubling for your next gig?

This isn't Black Edge but it sounds similar to the book lol.

Most Helpful
  • Investment Analyst in HF - Other
Jan 30, 2022 - 3:57pm

First off, love that book, I couldn't put it down, and that says a lot for a person who absolutely hates reading books. 

You're right, it was fortunate I was younger. A lot of the older staff had some serious issues getting a gig again, some couldn't get into another fund.

It was a small fund, so not as much $$ in the bank as you would think. First thing, filed for unemployment. I honestly don't remember how much I had in the bank at that time, but it was enough that I could continue to live in my apartment & maintain some of the same lifestyle, but not enough to just not care about $$. If timelines extended out more I 100% would've had an issue. 

I took a week or two to gather myself, and then for hours each day, cast a wide net and applied to everything I could find that was in the asset class . I spoke to a lot of HH. Became fantastic at FIFA during this period.

Honestly didn't get any interviews until like the 2nd month, then all of a sudden I had 5+ around the street, even two a day (BD at a boutique, IB at a non BB, RA, lending at a BB, for example). I luckily didn't get a black mark, but it was definitely an interesting conversation to have during interviews when they asked 'why did you leave?'. At that time I decided not to try to go into another fund because I wanted job and financial stability before throwing myself into something like that again (build that nest egg). Ended up at a BB which still I consider myself very lucky to come out relatively unscathed. 

Even years later the topic and conversation always comes up in interviews, But, at this point it makes for a great engaging conversation and is something unique to remember me by during my candidacy for a position.

Jan 31, 2022 - 9:51am
CarsnWatches, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I literally thought he was going to troll us and start in with the Billions storyline. Very interesting story OP. Thanks for sharing 

Jan 30, 2022 - 5:22pm
Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Nice post, but sad that "white collar" criminals never see a jail cell and their punishment is being banned from trading lol when they literally ruined peoples lives.

  • Investment Analyst in HF - Other
Jan 30, 2022 - 5:40pm

We'll see what happens with this new one, think he might see a jail cell for a short period of time. The punishments still owe millions in restitution, but who knows if that actually gets paid out. People do go to jail for financial crimes, but its usually the larger scale, high profile cases. Don't disagree with your thought, though, it should at a minimum be considered, dependent on circumstance and scope.

Jan 31, 2022 - 3:12pm
BillionairesPartner, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thats Fucking Wild. I believe every word.

My mentor always screams at me to never ever ever play in the Stock Market unless parking capital in the S&P as a strategy.

Steve Cohen 50% returns at SAC are truly Suspect. And let's not forget Raj @ Gallion!

SEC investigations are really fascinating. I would highly suggest going to a few seminars about what the SEC does.

Great Story. 💵👍

Feb 2, 2022 - 2:06pm
userdoesnotexist, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Seems super messed up what the hedge fund was doing and defrauding all the stakeholders including its employees. Never worked for one , and so don't know what is a comprehensive list of red flags to look for when evaluating one. But this is insightful. 

  • Investment Analyst in HF - Other
Feb 2, 2022 - 2:20pm

Gotta understand that it was one trader - the investigations concluded it was a solo actor. He defrauded the fund, the employees, and the investors. Its difficult for back office to spot pricing errors when they aren't as well versed in the products. If you asked me if his marks looked reasonable, I would have no idea where to start.

I wouldn't walk away from this story making a blanket statement on HFs... you can look at any corner of the industry and find instances of fraud, from local FAs to BB trading desks. Its difficult just in general for any of us to find an automatic red flag, but these scenarios do happen, we just generally hear of the big ones that make national headlines.

Feb 5, 2022 - 4:42am
TheBuellerBanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Jeeeez that's an awesome story to have lol. Hope you landed on your feet after and that none of this biz interfered in your getting a new job. I'm sure it was crazy to be at your first job and see someone get picked up by feds. Hell that's crazy no matter what your tenure haha. Thanks for sharing.

  • 1
Feb 5, 2022 - 3:57pm
whitewalker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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