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Senate: Hedge Funds Used “Basket Options” To Dodge Taxes

New York (HedgeCo.Net) – Over a dozen hedge funds are accused of misusing a complex financial structure to claim billions of dollars in unjustified tax savings and to avoid leverage limits that protect the financial system from risky debt, a Senate Subcommittee investigation has found.

“These banks and hedge funds used dubious structured financial products in a giant game of ‘let’s pretend,’ costing the Treasury billions and bypassing safeguards that protect the economy from excessive bank lending for stock speculation.” Sen. Carl Levin said.

The improper use of this structured financial product, known as basket options, is the subject of a 93-page report which will be the focus of a Tuesday hearing at which bank and hedge fund officials and tax experts will testify.

“Americans are tired of large financial institutions playing by a different set of rules when it comes to paying taxes,” said McCain. “The banks and hedge funds involved in this case used the basket options structure to change the tax treatment of their short-term stock trades, something the average American investor cannot do. Hedge funds cannot be allowed to have an unfair tax advantage over ordinary citizens.”

The report outlines how Deutsche Bank AG and Barclays Bank PLC, over the course of more than a decade, sold financial products known as basket options to more than a dozen hedge funds. From 1998 to 2013, the banks sold 199 basket options to hedge funds which used them to conduct more than $100 billion in trades. The subcommittee focused on options involving two of the largest basket option users, Renaissance Technology Corp. LLC (“RenTec”) and George Weiss Associates.

The banks and hedge funds used the option structure to open proprietary trading accounts in the names of the banks and create the fiction that the banks owned the account assets, when in fact the hedge funds exercised total control over the assets, executed all the trades, and reaped all the trading profits.

Download the report, “Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Basket Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits” [PDF]

Alex Akesson
Editor for HedgeCo.net
alex@hedgeco.net
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