08 July 2009

John Merriwether to Close Hedge Fund After Heavy Losses

The markets are brutal indeed for speculation, with a few predatory institutions, well supplied with freshly minted central bank liquidity, preying the markets with high frequency programs designed to manipulate prices, squeezing the leverage out of funds and speculators.

The marvel is not that a professional like John Merriwether has failed again, although less spectacularly this time as compared to the great flameout that was LTCM.

The marvel is that people, including the wealthy and presumably sophisticated, continue to give their funds to gamblers and ponzi dealers.

Even more amazing how the people continue to allow their economies to be so thoroughly distorted and perverted by the corrupting influence of a relatively few but powerful market participants from the financial sector.

"While boasting of our noble deeds we're careful to conceal the ugly fact that by an iniquitous money system we have nationalized a system of oppression which, though more refined, is not less cruel than the old system of chattel slavery." Horace Greeley
The banks must be restrained, and the markets reformed, and balance restored to the economy before a sustained recovery can be achieved.

A good first step would be an independent audit of the Federal Reserve. And a second would be aggregate position limits on all commodities and traded financial instruments with disclosure. A third would be the aggressive abolition of naked shorting.

Meriwether Said to Shut Hedge Fund; London Chief Plans Startup

By Katherine Burton and Saijel Kishan
July 7, 2009 21:41 EDT

July 8 (Bloomberg) -- John Meriwether plans to shut the hedge fund he started after the collapse of his Long-Term Capital Management LP in 1998 roiled global markets, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Long-Term Capital lost more than 90 percent of its $4.8 billion of assets in the weeks following Russia’s currency devaluation and bond default. The Federal Reserve orchestrated a $3.6 billion bailout by the fund’s 14 banks to calm fears that the firm’s lenders and trading partners would be dragged down.

The decline of Meriwether’s current firm, JWM Partners LLC, played out over months, with its main fund losing 44 percent from September 2007 to February 2009. The Relative Value Opportunity II fund, which sought to profit from price differences among related bonds, returned an average of 1.46 percent a year since it began trading Nov. 30, 1999. The Credit Suisse/Tremont Hedge Fixed-Income Arbitrage Index gained 2.4 percent a year in the same period.

“For many investors, John Meriwether is by now just another hedge-fund manager,” said Tammer Kamel, president of Toronto-based Iluka Consulting Group Ltd., which advises clients on investments in the private pools of capital. “LTCM’s infamy was a big story in 1998, but the events of 2008 might finally relegate LTCM and 1998 to footnote status.”

JWM Partners, based in Greenwich, Connecticut, managed about $1 billion at the beginning of 2008. Meriwether, 61, joins hedge-fund veterans Art Samberg, James Pallotta and William von Mueffling in closing funds this year. He didn’t return a telephone call and an e-mail seeking comment.

London Chief Departs

Adrian Eterovic, who ran the JWM Partners’ London office, plans to start his own fund, according to the person, who asked not to be named because the information is private.

Eterovic, 46, ran the quantitative strategies within JWM’s funds, according to the person. Eterovic registered Episteme Capital Partners (U.K.) LLP with the U.K.’s Financial Services Authority, according to the market regulator’s Web site. Calls to Episteme’s offices after business hours weren’t answered.

Long-Term Capital relied on borrowed money to enhance returns. The average leverage at the beginning of 1998 was about $28 for every $1 of net assets. JWM Partners was more conservative, aiming to produce returns of 15 percent a year and borrowing $15 or less for every dollar of net assets.

Before Long-Term Capital, Meriwether worked at Salomon Brothers, where he was vice chairman and built its proprietary trading desk. His team, with at least a half-dozen Ph.D’s, used computer models to make money from small price differences in related bonds. His group was responsible for as much as 60 percent of Salomon’s revenue in some years.

He lost his job at the firm following the 1991 government bond scandal. Regulators ruled that he’d failed to supervise traders who violated bond-auction rules.