John Devaney | Hedge Fund Manager
A few days ago I read an odd article within the New York post on John Devaney and how he was supposedly booed off of stage at a recent conference. Click here to read this article now. This seemed far fetched but I figured anything could happen in today's market environment. Here is an excerpt:
Devaney, who made no friends after his United Capital Markets' flame-out left investors with zero payout, began to speak during a Monday morning discussion at the conference but soon began a rant on why the markets were wrong and he was right.
The crowd began to boo and the microphone was taken away from him, according to several spies in attendance.
This morning Mr. Davaney is claiming that this story has been completely fabricated by a competitor within the industry. I know this happens more often than it should in the investment industry so I'm publishing his letter here:
In response to an inaccurate story published in the New York Post on Sunday, October 26 United Capital Markets, Inc. would like to make the following statement:
To New York Post, Teri Buhl, and your Investor Source:
Most of the content in "Devaney Booed off Stage," which appeared in this past Sunday's (October 26th) New York Post, is completely false. There was no booing, nor did anyone leave the stage. This is totally fabricated. This type of false reporting is compounding problems that the finance industry is having in restoring confidence. Articles of this nature are placing the financial system at more risk by falsely attacking industry participants. We are one of the few dealers in the ABS/MBS community providing liquidity and making an effort to help the markets. The parts about my brokerage firm and asset management firm having troubles in 2007 and this year are true. The rest of your story is inaccurate.
You called me and told me that a hedge fund investor of United Capital Asset Management ("UCAM") is very upset about his losses and does not wish me well. Ms. Buhl, you did not attend the conference. You spoke to a person who called you with the sole intention of trying to malign me and my firm by having you write a negative story. Furthermore, it is absurd that you would consider someone credible who told you that he was plotting to steal artwork from my yacht and who had been drinking.
Normally, I ignore this type of media attention, but as someone who has supported the ABS/MBS conference industry for almost 9 years now, I felt like I wanted to speak out against this attack on myself and importantly, the industry conventions that are integral to transferring information and ultimately to healing our markets.
I might note that beginning in 1999, I started supporting industry conferences, including American Securitization Forum ("ASF"), as well as Information Management Network ("IMN"), with payments now totaling almost $3 million. We have given back a portion of our earnings by paying for sponsorships, entertainment, and dinners in an attempt to increase industry participation. As the ABS industry has expanded, the conferences have grown in attendance from about 300 people in 1999 to a high of 6,000, in recent years. I have offered my own time and effort to appear at almost every conference, twice a year, for 9 years now, serving on boards and committees and also speaking on some 40 panels. You might say that this is a commitment to my industry.
I am sorry for any investor who has lost money in any investment in the past 18 months. It has been a very tough environment for any investor who has been long the bond market in structured finance securities: RMBS, ABS, CMBS, and CDOs. These markets have crashed and the best "AAA" bonds are trading at 50 cents on a dollar and almost everything else at 10 cents or below. This market crash has unfortunately created large losses across a very wide spectrum of institutions and individuals.
All investors are accountable for their investment decisions. You could be at an investment bank, regional bank, prop desk, fund of funds, insurance company, hedge fund, or CDO manager and this still applies. It doesn't matter who you are or what side of the fence you sit on; it is important to realize that if you or your investment committee "pulls the trigger" on investments or strategies that you remain accountable for the results.
I certainly think that I have displayed my accountability to this marketplace and to this industry. I have lost in excess of $100 million of my personal wealth investing in this market sector alongside all others. I was the 2nd largest investor in my hedge fund, managed by UCAM, with approximately 15% ownership. In addition, UCM, my broker/dealer, has also struggled immensely. At the end of 2007, UCM sustained very bad losses that nearly wiped out the firm's equity.
Beyond just being responsible for my personal investments, I continue to attend and participate at the conferences, striving to be part of the solution to the market's severe troubles. Fortunately, I was diversified and did not have all of my net worth in junk bonds. I have sold a huge string of my personal assets in order to recapitalize and continue this market making commitment. Like all financial firms, UCM continues to observe these extraordinary conditions and looks forward to implementing a strategy that will serve our clients while returning us to profitability.
We own almost 100 bonds in UCM and affiliated accounts across almost all sectors of structured finance and have purchased most of this paper this past quarter. Instead of crawling under my desk and hiding from people or feeling sorry for my own losses, I embraced the industry and its challenges by holding my head up high and being proactive about solutions to the marketplace. We are providing value.
This strong commitment is how UCM has traded more than $50 Billion notional of illiquid over-the-counter, mainly non-investment grade, products in 9 years. We have emerged as a leader over this period in secondary markets for all asset backed sectors which have come under distress, including aircraft ABS, CDOs, franchise loans, manufactured housing, subprime, distressed credit cards, second liens, and of course RMBS. Our firm has provided liquidity to countless institutional accounts, buying in competition when many underwriters would not.
This same commitment was given to our asset manager. Our main hedge fund strategy made 49% and 42% returns in 2005 and 2006, respectively. In 2007, the fund was almost wiped out, succumbing to unexpected forces that included in hindsight: the wrong investments, deteriorating fundamentals, REPO lenders seizing collateral, and an avalanche of supply driving down prices and impairing liquidity. In 2008, the fund was seized by lenders and all equity was eliminated.
It takes an honest individual to admit that he was wrong. UCM and UCAM were long in 2007 and were wrong. Any investment other than cash or a short position in fixed income, was the wrong investment. By printing these false stories, the New York Post is greatly compounding the loss of confidence in the marketplace and in these important industry gatherings. This same type of reckless reporting has, in some part, contributed to the demise of other financial firms, like Lehman Brothers, and has further stressed the worldwide financial system.
In February 2009, UCM will turn 10 years old. On this occasion, we might tell our clients and dealer friends, "Be accountable for your investments, hold your head up high and maintain a commitment to your job and your industry. Don't give up."
Chief Executive Officer, United Capital Markets, Inc., United Capital Asset Management LLC