Back in August we noted that John Paulson managed to get himself and his investors involved in two rather dubious "firsts" in 2015: Puerto Rico became the first US commonwealth in history to default, and Greece became the first developed country to default to the IMF.
“[Paulson] is one of a handful of bold hedge fund investors who poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Greece in a wager that the country’s economy would recover after years of economic crisis,” the New York Times wrote late last summer, on the way to explaining why the wealth management arm of Bank of America Merrill Lynch was liquidating its clients’ money from one of Paulson & Company’s funds. “Mr. Paulson is also one of Puerto Rico’s biggest hedge fund investors, betting that the commonwealth will emerge from its own debt crisis,” The Times continued.
Besides Greece and Puerto Rico, Paulson also managed to tie up money in Mallinckrodt, which is down sharply since last summer.
Now, amid a client exodus, the billionaire is putting up his own holdings to secure a longstanding line of credit with HSBC. “The billionaire pledged his personal investments in four of his firm’s hedge funds as additional collateral for a credit line Paulson & Co. has had with HSBC Bank USA for at least five years,” Bloomberg reports, adding that “Paulson is using his wealth to back the firm’s borrowings after investment losses and client defections cut assets by more than half from their peak.”
Essentially, Paulson secured the line of credit with management fees as collateral, but with AUM having fallen by a whopping $18 billion over the last five or so years, HSBC apparently wanted some reassurance. Here's a bit more from Bloomberg:
Filings show Paulson & Co. secured its December 2010 credit line with annual management fees from five of its hedge funds, a common form of collateral in the industry. The firm’s funds charge outside clients a standard annual management fee equaling 1 percent to 2 percent of assets and a performance fee totaling 20 percent of profits, according to its latest investment-adviser registration.
The collateral may be down in value since Paulson & Co. entered into the agreement. The firm’s assets under management, which generate the fees, have fallen about 50 percent to $18 billion since Paulson & Co. received the credit line. Of the money that remains, more than half belongs to Paulson and other insiders at the firm who have been exempt from paying fees.
As of the end 2014, about 57 percent of the firm’s capital belonged to Paulson and others who don’t pay management and performance fees, according to a filing.
Paulson also secured a personal line of credit with HSBC. Some speculate the billionaire is shoring up the fund's finances to ensure it can retain "top talent" in a downturn. "You run the risk of losing key people if you don’t provide a market level of compensation," Jeff Levi, a partner at Casey Quirk said.
Of course it could just be that HSBC wants to cover its bases now that volatile, increasingly correlated markets have dealt blow after vicious blow to a 2 and 20 crowd that looks increasingly inept in a world where investors actually need hedge funds to live up to their billing and do what they're supposed to do: namely provide some semblance of stability and return in turbulent times.
Losing 36% in a year as Paulson Advantage did in 2014 doesn't exactly inspire much confidence and at this juncture we think it's safe to say that Mr. Paulson may indeed have been a one hit wonder.