Last year wasn’t exactly a banner year for hedge funds—on average, they returned 7.4 percent gains in 2013, far behind the S&P 500’s 30 percent gain for the year, and short of the 9.2 percent gains their clients expected for the year. Still, you’ll be reassured to know that the top hedge fund managers made out okay anyway: a new ranking of the top earners for 2013 shows that the top 25 managers took home a total of $21.15 billion, the highest combined total since 2010 and 50 percent more than in 2012. Not shabby for a down year.
What’s notable about the list of top performers, though, isn’t just the eye-popping sums. It’s that some of the names on the list are awfully familiar. Where have we seen these fellows before? Ah yes: warning of the country’s coming socialist penury under the leadership of Barack Obama.
Roll the tape, shall we?
Kenneth Griffin, March 2012: “At this moment in time, [capitalist] values are under attack. This belief that a larger government is what creates prosperity, that a larger government is what creates good (is wrong). We've seen that experiment. The Soviet Union collapsed. China has run away from its state-controlled system over the last 20 years and has pulled more people up from poverty by doing so than we've ever seen in the history of humanity. Why the U.S. is drifting toward a direction that has been the failed of experiment of the last century [sic], I don't understand. I don't understand.” 2013 haul: $950 million, 5th place.
Leon Cooperman, September 2011: “What happened is, a 48-year old with no prior business experience, made his way into power, which you know is not all that different from how Hitler made it into power.” March 2012: “[Obama] was wonderful for the minority and black population, but in my opinion he’s been the worst president in history…Rather than trying to create a sense of equal opportunity, he’s shitting on people who are successful. ... He creates this impression that wealthy people don’t pay taxes. Who the fuck doesn’t pay taxes?” 2013 haul: $825 million, 7th place.
Daniel Loeb, July 2011: “President Obama has yet to speak to Americans as adults, insisting instead on his preferred technique—stirring up class warfare…It's increasingly difficult to avoid that conclusion that while Washington burns, President Obama is fiddling away by insisting that the only solution to the nation's problems…lies in redistribution of wealth.” August 2010: The Obama administration “has taken actions over the past months…that seem designed to fracture the populace by pulling capital and power from the hands of some and putting it in the hands of others…the Administration is operating from a playbook quite different from the one we are used to as American business people; a thought that chills all participants in these free markets.” 2013 haul: $700 million, 9th place.
The list of top 2013 performers also includes several managers who, while being more careful about broadcasting their disgruntlement in quotable form, made their opposition to Obama plain by donating and raising lots of money for Mitt Romney in 2012, in several cases after having backed Obama in 2008. This group includes two of the list's four billion-plus earners in 2013, Steven Cohen ($2.4 billion in 2013) and John Paulson ($2.3 billion), as well as Paul Tudor Jones II ($600 million) and John Griffin ($470 million.)
The falling out between Obama and so many in the hedge fund elite who took a shine to him in 2008 has been well documented for several years now. But it needs to be borne in mind when looking at the new ranking. The sums taken home by these men are all the more impressive when one considers that they’ve been garnered in spite of a conspiracy led by the president of the United States to suppress the upper echelons of the financial industry and, let’s face it, free-market initiative in general. Just imagine what heights these managers could have attained if not weighted down by Obama’s leveling crusade. Really, $21.15 billion is a pittance.