I’ve read parts of The Big Short by Michael Lewis before, but finally re-read the entire thing over the weekend. If you are unfamiliar with this bestseller, it tells the story of the housing bubble through the viewpoint of investors who saw the crisis coming and bet big money on the collapse of subprime mortgages. Lewis portrays these guys as almost heroes, courageous individuals from smaller hedge funds that went against the commonly-held beliefs of the big firms on Wall Street.
Instead of writing the 8,449th review of this book, my question was – what are these characters betting against now? Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean I think they’ll be right, but I’m still curious.
Michael Burry, Scion Capital
Burry no longer accepts money from outside investors (he doesn’t need to), but still invests at Scion Capital using his own money. He doesn’t write a blog or release his recent letters to shareholders to the public, except for a few old ones. He did make a April 2011 lecture at his alma mater Vanderbilt University entitled Missteps to Mayhem where he sees continued problems with the government printing too much money and not tackling our current fiscal problems.
The government’s borrowing of money for the purpose of injecting cash into society, bailing out banks, brokers, and consumers, is a short-sighted, easy decision for a population that has not yet learned that short-sighted and easy strategies are the route to long-term ruin.
He ends his speech with the ominous advice “All that said, I might suggest opening a retail banking account in Canada.” I’m not even sure that’s possible to do as a U.S. citizen… is it?
From this complete transcript of a September 2010 interview with Bloomberg, he states that he believes that “productive agricultural land with water on site is — will be very valuable in the future”, he is bullish on gold due to currency debasement, but he doesn’t have a good feel for the timing of things as it could take a while to play out.
Steve Eisman, FrontPoint Partners
Eisman left FrontPoint in June 2011 and is reported to start his own hedge fund Emrys Partners in 2012. He has gotten the most publicity in recent years for shorting the stocks of certain for-profit colleges taking advantage of easy credit from government student loans. Basically, people who can’t get into traditional colleges are pitched a great future and convinced to take out large amounts of debt that they can’t pay back, all so these pseudo-accredited colleges can profit. Sound familiar? From a 2010 conference speech:
Until recently, I thought that there would never again be an opportunity to be involved with an industry as socially destructive and morally bankrupt as the subprime mortgage industry. I was wrong. The for-profit education industry has proven equal to the task. [...] This is similar to the subprime mortgage sector in that the subprime originators bore far less risk than the investors in their mortgage paper.
I also looked for information on Charles Ledley and James Mai of Cornwall Capital, but really didn’t come up with much. They have a website, but there is nothing to see for the public.