Massive Bets On Idiots

By: Mike Shedlock | Tue, Jul 31, 2007
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CNN Money is reporting Fund manager's fun sailing away.

Hedge fund manager [John Devaney] whose fund ran into trouble from the sell-off in securities backed by subprime mortgages is having to put his huge yacht up for sale, seeking $23.5 million.

John Devaney, the CEO of United Capital Markets, a fund that specializes in buying and selling bonds that are backed by the mortgage payments, particularly adjustable rate subprime mortgages, has put his 142-foot yacht "Positive Carry" up for sale, according to a yacht broker's Web site.

Devaney's fund has run into trouble lately. A spokesman for the firm told Reuters on July 3 that it had stopped honoring request from some of its investors for redemptions, or withdrawal, of investments.

Devaney told Money magazine this spring that despite problems that the loans cause for borrowers, the assets backed by them provided a good return for his fund.

"The consumer has to be an idiot to take on those loans," he said. "But it has been one of our best-performing investments."

But with rising delinquency and default rates in the sector, investors have been scared away from the assets lately, hitting those like Devaney who made a big bet on the investment.

According to the yacht broker's listing, the yacht has accommodations for 10 passengers in its five staterooms, along with space for a crew of seven. Its amenities include his and her baths in the master suite, and four guest bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs and showers and cherry wood interior throughout.

It has two 2,250-horsepower engines and a range of 3,500 nautical miles.

The New York Post reported Monday that Devaney is also seeking to sell a home in Aspen for $16.5 million.

Pure Arrogance

On 2007-05-02 Devaney spoke with CNN Money about How to get rich trading "idiot" loans.

The housing boom was good to John Devaney. Really good. He owns a Rolls-Royce, a Gulfstream Jet, a 12,000-square-foot mansion in Key Biscayne and a 143-foot yacht, as well as a few Renoirs and a valuable 1823 reproduction of the Declaration of Independence.

Devaney's not a developer, and he's certainly not a flipper. The 36-year-old CEO of United Capital Markets is a bond trader. And one of his specialties is buying and selling bonds that are backed by the mortgage payments of ordinary homeowners.

Option ARMs? Devaney loves 'em. "The consumer has to be an idiot to take on those loans," he says. "But it has been one of our best-performing investments."

"Some of the investors who bought CDOs certainly took on more risk than they thought," says John Weicher, a former assistant secretary of housing now at the Hudson Institute. But Devaney, who told a crowd of investors that the riskiest mortgage bonds looked "awful" before the crash, says he thinks he'll be buying. "I don't believe the carnage and fallout will be as bad as people think," he says.

Whether or not big investors come out okay, the damage is done for many homeowners. "The system allowed banks to create unsustainable loans that are going to haunt borrowers for years to come," says Allen Fishbein, director of credit and housing policy at the Consumer Federation of America. "Unlike the bank, the borrower has no way to lay off the risk."

Indeed "the damage is done". In more ways than one. Not only was he willing to bet on "idiots" willing to buy houses at ever absurd prices he was willing to roll the dice with OPM (other people's money) with that idea on his hedge fund. Why not? Hedge funds collects 20% of the profits and suffer 0% of the losses when they blow up.

Devaney, like Bear Stearns (whose High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Fund went to zero) has locked in investors and has stopped redemptions.

Devaney did NOT say this, but he may as well have: "You have to be an idiot to knowingly invest in a hedge fund that admittedly makes money by betting on the behavior of other idiots (with leverage), knowing full well that one or the other or both idiots is bound to blow up".



Mike Shedlock

Author: Mike Shedlock

Mike Shedlock / Mish
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Mike Shedlock

Michael "Mish" Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Visit to learn more about wealth management for investors seeking strong performance with low volatility.

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