For readers of The Smartest Guys in the Room and When Genius Failed, the definitive take on Brian Hunter, John Arnold, Amaranth Advisors, and the largest hedge fund collapse in history
At its peak, hedge fund Amaranth Advisors LLC had more than $9 billion in assets. A few weeks later, it completely collapsed. The disaster was largely triggered by one man: thirty-two-year-old hotshot trader Brian Hunter. His high-risk bets on natural gas prices bankrupted his firm and destroyed his career, while John Arnold, his rival at competitor fund Centaurus, emerged as the highest-paid trader on Wall Street. Meticulously researched and character-driven, Hedge Hogs is a riveting fly-on-the-wall account of the largest hedge fund collapse in history: a blistering tale of the recent past that explains our precarious present . . . and may predict our future.
Using emails, instant messages, court testimony, and exclusive interviews, securities analyst turned investigative reporter Barbara T. Dreyfuss charts the colliding paths of these two charismatic traders who dominated the speculative energy market. We follow Brian Hunter, the Canadian farm boy and elbows-out high school basketball star, as he achieves phenomenal early success, only to see his ambition, greed, and hubris precipitate his downfall. Set in relief is the journey of John Arnold, whose mild manner, sophisticated tastes, and low profile belied his own ferocious competitive streak. As the two clash, hundreds of millions of dollars in pension and endowment money is imperiled, with devastating public consequences.
Hedge Hogs takes you behind closed doors into the shadowy world of hedge funds, the unregulated wild side of finance, where over-the-top parties and lavish perks abound and billions of dollars of other people’s money are in the hands of a tiny elite. Dreyfuss traces the rise of this freewheeling industry while detailing the decades of bank, hedge fund, and commodity deregulation that turned Wall Street into a speculative casino.
A gripping saga peppered with fast money, vivid characters, and high drama, Hedge Hogs is also an important and timely cautionary tale—a vivisection of a financial system jeopardized by reckless practices, watered-down regulation, and loopholes in government oversight, just waiting for the next bust.
Praise for Hedge Hogs
“Regulators, legislators and judges inclined to sympathize with the industry ought to rush out and buy a copy of Barbara Dreyfuss’s Hedge Hogs, a wonderfully instructive tale about Amaranth Advisors. . . . Dreyfuss, a Wall Street analyst turned investigative journalist, not only plowed through what turned out to be a treasure trove of official records and transcripts, but supplemented it with plenty of her own reporting. She manages to organize it all into a tight, riveting and understandable yarn.”—The Washington Post
“Clearly and entertainingly told . . . a salutary example of how traders who believe they are super-smart might be nothing more than lucky, and how there is nothing so intoxicating as the ability to speculate with other people’s money.”—The Economist
“[Dreyfuss] does a great job of putting Amaranth’s out-of-control trader into historical context, explaining the blitz of deregulation that set the stage for someone like Hunter to do maximum damage.”—Bloomberg
“The definitive take on the largest hedge fund collapse in history . . . You will not be able to put it down.”—Frank Partnoy, author of F.I.A.S.C.O. and Infectious Greed
Named One of the Top 10 Business & Economics Books of the Season by Publishers Weekly
Megalomaniacal traders trash the market while battling for supremacy in this lively financial melodrama. Journalist and former financial analyst Dreyfuss smartly deploys her inside knowledge of Wall Street in following Brian Hunter, an energy trader for Amaranth LLC whose colossal bets on natural gas futures all but bankrupted the firm in 2006 and took down many a retiree's pension in the process. She makes his duel with rival supertrader John Arnold a choreography of canny (and possibly illegal) market manipulations in which he eventually outsmarted himself: the gas contracts he bought were so huge that they moved the market upward and they were also too big to sell without causing a self-defeating market plunge that might wreck his firm. Dreyfuss's lucid, perceptive tour of the high-wire culture of hedge funds highlights just how vapid Wall Street's pretense of market expertise and risk analysis really is; Hunter's natural gas trades are really just bets on future weather, wagers that a hurricane or cold snap will crimp production or boost consumption enough to raise prices. Less cowboys than arrogant yet insipid hollow men Hunter's inane "hahaha" e-mail tag line is his most flamboyant trait Dreyfuss's subjects lose sight of reality in a financial hall of mirrors.