Keepin’ It Real

May 9, 2007

John Edwards’ Hedge Fund Job: A Learning Experience

Filed under: John Edwards,Politics — mary @ 5:30 pm

One has to admire how brazen politicians have become in attempting to pull the wool over our eyes. The problem is when they believe the public is so stupid to buy any load of nonsense they shovel, they are the ones who show how truly stupid they are.

John Edwards has tried to explain away his job as a paid consultant at the Fortress Investment Group, a hedge fund with over $35 billion in managed assets by claiming he was there to learn about financial markets and their relationship to poverty.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Edwards stated:

“I didn’t feel like I understand, and to be honest with you still learning right now, sort of the relationship between that world and the way money moves in this country through financial markets” .

Wow, getting paid to learn. Maybe that is the lesson that Edwards can take away from his job with Fortress Investment Group. Perfect idea for a new poverty program. Problem with guys like Edwards is that they just can’t leave their tall tales alone. Embellishment is always necessary. So here goes his:

He said his role was to advise the firm about what he saw happening economically in the United States and during his travels overseas.

First, he was there to learn, but then he was there to teach. And, not only that, but to teach about the economy he saw while travelling. Interestingly, according to the New York Times, he started this job right after he and his running mate, John Kerry lost their bid for the presidency:

Mr. Edwards’s year-long stint at Fortress began in October 2005, after he served as running mate to Senator John Kerry in his failed presidential bid.

So he must have been advising the Fortress Investment Group about all that economic stuff he saw on the campaign trail: those rubber chickens taking over fundraising dinners, the plight of the private general aviation airports, the black SUV market, and the shape of the country’s hairstyling industry. Although he has not disclosed his salary yet, I’m sure the information he was able to supply to his employer was extremely valuable resulting in a handsome salary.

Such silly stories to the American public to try and hide the real markets that Edwards was there to learn about: the high-paid market in access to public officials, past and future. Access is a hot commodity and really is an ever expanding market.

Hedge funds seem to be particularly interested in expanding their presence in this market. The hedge fund industry has been tarnished in the last few years and they don’t want politicians to start regulating their cash cow. A recent article in Forbes highlighted some of the issues:

Another hedge fund lobby group is being formed to ward off heightened regulation, but industry experts acknowledged that attempts to repair fund managers’ image as freewheeling, unregulated risk takers may be futile because large funds are so profitable.

“Obviously what we make is absolutely obscene,” Marc Lasry, founder and managing partner of Avenue Capital Group, said at a panel sponsored by the Milken Institute of former Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond king Michael Milken. “I’m not saying it’s wrong, trust me, but it’s still obscene.”


The need for more effective lobbying became apparent when Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, earlier this year tried to attach a mandatory registration amendment to an anti-terrorism bill. There’s clearly an image problem when hedge funds get associated with terrorism, Roth said.


Last year’s collapse of Amaranth, a large hedge fund, has raised concerns in the industry that Congress or regulators could increase regulation and disclosure of funds’ trading strategies.

Lobbying is a good strategy, but wouldn’t it be better if your former employee became President of the United States? Very smart use of market forces by the ultimate capitalists. And, the Fortress Investment Group is not the only smart hedge fund. The Avenue Capital Group, whose founder was quoted in the above Forbes article, has wisely paid now for potential future rewards by hiring Chelsea Clinton.

One does wonder what she is there to learn? Maybe what she learns about markets can help her Mom solve the Iran nuclear crisis.

One thing I’m sure we can all learn from John Edwards’ hedge fund job: Take one former public official with friends in high places or with ambitions for future public office and, presto, any prospect of poverty is erased forever from his life.

One thing John Edwards should learn from the media coverage of this job: Stop thinking that your fellow citizens are so stupid that you can tell illogical whoppers and get away with it.


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