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Take, Don’t Make!
Posted on Apr 18, 2013
By Les Leopold
The following is an adapted excerpt from Les Leopold’s new book: “How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning off America’s Wealth” (John Wiley and Sons, 2013). It is reposted here with permission.
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• In 2009, David Tepper, the head of the Appaloosa hedge fund, earned an astounding $4 billion. Personally. (That’s $1,923,076.92 per hour.)
So, here’s the real puzzle: How did these two hedge funds, which have fewer than one hundred employees each, make as much money as Apple Inc., which relies on the hard work of its nearly thirty thousand U.S. employees (and the incredibly hard work of another seven hundred thousand workers and contractors globally)?
Hint: Produce nothing tangible for the real economy. Don’t waste your time inventing or manufacturing stuff. In the hedge-fund game, you don’t make—you take.
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Better to enter the mystical world of money managing, as described by Daniel A. Strachman, who has written several informative books on hedge funds. He believes that hedge-fund managers deserve to make so much with so little labor because they are simply more brilliant than those plebeians who worry about making cute little gadgets. Strachman is absolutely awed by hedge-fund billionaires:
“These individuals are some of the brightest investment managers of all time, possessing unique skill sets that have made them extremely successful at managing money and exploiting market opportunities…. In essence, they are capable of seeing the markets in ways that most of us simply cannot imagine, and it is this rare vision that allows them to determine whether opportunities have value, thereby creating infinite windows to make money. That is what makes them great hedge fund managers.” (Strachman 2008, 16)
I have no doubt that these hedge-fund guys are very bright fellows and that the ones who make it to the top possess intelligence, foresight, and obscure knowledge. But really, are these hedge-fund guys so much brighter than those who create and manufacture everything we use? Is their “rare vision” so superior to that of the late Steve Jobs and his associates? And just what are those “infinite windows” that “most of us simply cannot imagine”?
We all know how Apple earns its keep. It invents, manufactures, and markets products that the world voraciously consumes. (It also profits by using regimented workers in China who live in company dorms, wear identical company uniforms, get paid little, and work around the clock whenever Apple needs them.) The iMac, iPod, iTunes store, iPhone, and iPad have driven Apple’s net profit from $4.8 billion in 2008 to $8.2 billion in 2009, to $14 billion in 2010, and a stunning $26 billion in 2011.
Meanwhile, Tepper’s Appaloosa hedge fund probably took in $20 billion, racking up an incredible 117 percent return for its investors in 2009. Doing what, exactly? Where’s their iPad?
Here’s what the financial website HedgeFundBlogger.com says about how Tepper made his billions:
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