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Hedge funds turn lives into a game

Taipei Times- Two years there was a music festival at Knebworth, in central Britain, that was very different. At “Hedgestock” 4,000 hedge fund managers and investors paid US$1,000 a ticket for a weekend of rock’n’roll, champagne, laser clay pigeon shooting and seminars on arcane aspects of how to make even more millions.

Some wore beads as part send-up, part veneration of Woodstock, 1960s hippies and “hedgies” bound by the bond of anti-establishment love of liberty, as if the aims of getting stoned and making a fortune gambling in unregulated financial markets were curiously united. The Who played out the event, with proceeds going to the Teenager Cancer Trust. “Hedgies” were the cool face of capitalism.

This year, a rerun of Hedgestock would be pilloried and rightly so. Oil prices are spiraling higher and the plight of stricken banks, property companies and housebuilders is made more acute because of hedge funds’ aggressive speculation. Late last month there were fresh fears that the Western financial order simply could not cope and global stock markets reeled. Hedge funds are emerging as one of the triggers of a first order crisis.

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