Former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine is thinking about starting his own hedge fund, according to the Wall Street Journal, and because of the way his last firm imploded, Wall Street has strong feelings about that.
“Truth is the larger seeders would never give him money — too much reputation risk,” said one hedge fund executive. “And the family office seeders, like the few billion dollar Russia oligarchs… don’t trust him for anything. So he could start a fund but it’s like a suicide mission at best. He can probably get his friends together for $US50 million, but it will be close to impossible to get outside capital.”
Keep in mind that in this day and age of new hedge funds starting off with a cool $US1 billion of capital, $US50 million puts you at the kids table. And that’s not a place where a former chair of Goldman Sachs is used to being.
Corzine’s name dominated financial news back in 2011 when his commodities trading firm, MF Global, collapsed under the weight of trades he was making in then-volatile European bond markets. Corzine was called to testify before Congress in the midst of all that chaos. After that the CFTC charged him with unlawful misuse of $US1 billion worth of customer funds.
For some, though, that doesn’t mean Corzine shouldn’t be able to run a hedge fund.
“Jon Corzine will raise money and if he wants to will run a macro hedge fund and be excellent at it,” said SkyBridge Capital CEO Anthony Scaramucci, who worked at Goldman under Corzine. “Working for him as my boss I found him to be a honest man…. and as I predicted, [MF Global] investors receieved 100 cents on the dollar [of their investment]. The only thing they didn’t get back were legal and administrative fees… and by the way the trades he [Corzine] put on turned out to be phenomenal trades.”
It’s true, the bets Corzine made on $US11.5 billion Italian and Spanish bonds would have paid off if he hadn’t run out of money, as Business Insider pointed out at the time. But he wasn’t able to hold until borrowing costs for those bonds hit 2-year lows.
So therein lies the confusion for some on Wall Street.
“You’re talking to someone whose first reaction was ‘I should reach out and maybe I’ll join his fund’, which spiraled into a minor existential crisis about my strengths and weaknesses in life,” said one hedge fund portfolio manager.
All this said, sometimes Wall Street is a place where people can get a second chance. Just look at Michael Milken, the junk bond king who pleaded guilty to violating US securities laws and is now a big philanthropist.
Of course, philanthropy isn’t exactly running other people’s money. So who knows how this will shake out.