In the adult novelty & video arcade shop that is our New York financial establishment, one of the mop-and-spooge-bucket boys is Roddy Boyd, formerly of the New York Post (for folks who move their lips when they read Entertainment Weekly), and currently, of Fortune Magazine (also known as “People Magazine for Capitalists”). I have met Roddy on occasion, and a more seedy and furtive character would be difficult to name. Many years ago I knew a one-eyed Chinese guy named “Chaney” who ran a Bangkok pawn shop/mail-drop who was (it was rumored) working for Taiwanese, Chinese, and Soviet intelligence, simultaneously, but by appearances anyway, Chaney was a model of probity and fair-dealing when compared to Mr. Boyd.
Admittance into Roddy’s New York financial journalism spooge-bucket-brigade is conditional upon acceptance of The Fundamental Principle and First Corollary of that august fraternity:
The Fundamental Principle – Hedge funds can do no wrong, particularly if they belong to a small constellation whose brightest lights are Stevie Cohen, Dan Loeb, David Einhorn, Jim Chanos, and David Rocker.
The First Corollary – If any corporation or individual appears to have been wronged by activities of any of these hedge funds, using methods up to and including stock counterfeiting and manipulation, blackmail, harassment, and intimidation, use of private eyes and internal moles, inciting endless and expensive investigations that go nowhere, and so on and so forth, it must only be because they deserved it (for proof, see The Fundamental Principle).
Today Fortune Magazine’s Roddy Boyd gives fine illustration of these rules in an article on Copper River Partners (née Rocker Partners). This is the same Copper River/Rocker Partners whose exploits are chronicled throughout DeepCapture, and who have been frequent beneficiaries of reportorial lotion-jobs from Roddy, Karen Richardson (WSJ), Herb Greenberg (CBSMarketWatch), Joe Nocera (New York Times), and Jim Cramer (CNBC & TheStreet.com), and have been long-time recipients of Bethany McLean’s highly-regarded regulars-only service. (Full disclosure: Copper River is also on the business end of a Marin County lawsuit filed by Overstock.com, in which I played modest role.)
In today’s think-piece, Roddy treats us to such insights as:
- “But for noted short-sellers Copper River Management, a $1 billion hedge fund based in Larkspur, Cal., the month turned into a perfect storm. A devastating combination of counter-party failure, sudden regulatory edicts and margin calls conspired to turn the fund’s performance on its ear, leading to a 55% loss in just two weeks.” Translation: In the last two weeks Copper River lost over half of its billion dollars, though not through any fault of its own. Instead, counter-party failure, regulators, and those pesky margin calls “conspired” to create “a perfect storm” that lost the half-billion dollars.
- In case the point was lost that none of this had to do with the quality of Copper River’s investments, Roddy Boyd writes it out. He really does, in those words: “What’s worse for Copper River is that the battering had nothing to do with the quality of its investments.”
- We are treated to a bit of financial arcana: “On top of that, as Lehman unwound its own internal hedges to the Copper River trades, its trading desks bought shares of these companies, driving up their prices and leading to losses for Copper River.” Translation: Lehman sold puts to Copper River that Lehman then hedged by shorting stock (most likely in abuse of the option market-maker exception), and when Lehman covered those shorts it hurt Copper River, whose investment strategy assumed an environment where shorts rarely need cover (and understandably so). As far as Roddy Boyd is concerned, the possibility that a short might “cover” (that is, “at some point obtain and deliver that which they have sold”) and thereby cause loss to a favored hedge fund has “nothing to do with the quality of its investments.”
- As though that litany of impositions were not harrowing enough, Roddy chronicles further injustices suffered by Copper River: “That was bad enough, but on September 19, the bottom fell out for the fund. That was when the Securities and Exchange Commission ordered unprecedented restrictions in short sales” (as our nation’s financial system was imploding). And further, “As prices in those stocks shot upwards, Copper River was forced to cover – or buy back – some of its positions at steep losses. “ This is intolerable: how could a hedge fund such as Copper River make money if it has to deliver what it sells?
- And lastly, this chestnut: “The rising stock prices also led to a series of margin calls (demands for additional cash collateral to be deposited in a margin account) from Goldman Sachs, Copper River’s prime broker.” I’m with Roddy on this one: it’s damn inconsiderate of Goldman Sachs to insist that Copper River have funds to back its play.
But perhaps I am too hard on Roddy. “Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing will ever be made,” said Kant. A gal moves to the big city, gets behind, does things of which she is not proud. Molded are we all of imperfect clay.
But normally, she doesn’t write home about it.
It’s just Roddy’s ill fortune to have to perform these acts in national print.