Jeremy Warner: Hedgies seem to have won a stay of execution
Friday 03 April 2009
Yet the truth of the matter is that they had very little to do with the present crisis and, in the scale of things, are hardly of any importance at all. Most of them are only mildly leveraged, while even the most debt- geared of the lot are not nearly as leveraged as the average bank.
None of them has had to be bailed out by the taxpayer, and there is no evidence that they contributed to the systemic collapse of the banking industry. Even the totality of their assets doesn't match the balance-sheet size of a major bank such as Royal Bank of Scotland.
As suggested by Lord Turner, those that behave like banks will in future be regulated like banks, with capital requirements to match. That's going to make the leveraged returns of the past much more difficult to achieve, yet these have become virtually impossible over the last two years in any case. Hedge funds were some of the first victims of banking deleverage.
As for regulating hedge funds more closely, it looks as if the G20 will adopt the system already operated in the UK, where hedge fund managers are subjected to regulatory oversight by the Financial Services Authority even though their funds may be based offshore. A voluntary code of conduct on transparency, risk management and governance provides further protection for investors.
It's the lot of the poor hedgie that he's going to be demonised whatever he does. But it doesn't look as if he'll be drummed out of business altogether.
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