Saturday, December 10, 2011

Harbinger Capital Partners Falls From Pinnacle Over Trades

Easy come, easy go.  That's the lesson of the SEC's recent Wells Notices for Harbinger Capital Partners.  The notices are the SEC's discovery effort for evidence in questionable trades.  Harbinger's AUM has fallen a long way after scoring big with bets against the housing market.  It doesn't help that the firm bet big on LightSquared, whose technology has been given an FCC blessing despite concerns over GPS disruption

It's admittedly tough for a big firm to avoid charges of market manipulation.  Hedge funds that move billions of dollars of capital every day must have clear rationales for their actions lest the SEC accuse them of front-running or trading on inside information.  Complex strategies that bet the ranch on opaque derivatives are probably more trouble than they're worth.  Concentrated positions in unproven technologies that have little more advantage than a political favor are just begging for scrutiny and headaches. 

Hedge fund managers who make harsh demands on their investors are asking for trouble.  Investors who volunteer money into a fund with a five year lockup need to be aware that their money could be locked up far longer than they expect.  Wall Street sometimes forgets that it works for the client, not the other way around.  I don't have this problem because I don't work for anyone but myself, so I can commit to an investment for as long as I think it's worthwhile.