Paulson & Co.

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Paulson & Co. Inc.
IndustryInvestment management
Founded1994 (1994)
FounderJohn Paulson

Paulson & Co. Inc. is a family office based in New York City, previously it was an hedge fund established by John Paulson in 1994.[1] It specializing in "global merger, event arbitrage and credit strategies",[2] the firm had a relatively low profile on Wall Street until its hugely successful bet against the subprime mortgage market in 2007.[3] At one time the company had offices in London and Dublin.[2][4][1]


Early years[edit]

Paulson & Co. Inc. was established by its founder and President, John Paulson, in 1994.

Paulson has invested in a number of undervalued companies that are acquisition targets, aiming to increase the bid price on these companies as a large shareholder. In 1997, Paulson, which owned a 6.2% stake in Washington National Corp., opposed PennCorp Financial Group Inc.'s $400 million deal to takeover Washington National, calling the terms of the deal "inadequate". This holding out paid off when another suitor, Conseco Inc., purchased Washington National for $410 million.

The Financial Crisis[edit]

In 2005, Paulson Co. analyst Paolo Pellegrini convinced John Paulson of the danger of weak credit underwriting standards, excessive leverage among financial institutions and a fundamental mispricing of credit risk particularly in the housing market.[5] Paulson began "shorting" this credit risk by purchasing the hitherto obscure derivative known as credit default swaps to "insure" debt securities (Paulson Co. did not own those securities it was "insuring", but merely believed they would default) they thought would decline in value due to weak credit underwriting. The bubble continued to grow through 2005 and 2006, but by 2007 began to deflate.

In one later widely publicized deal, Goldman Sachs put together a "synthetic" collateralized debt obligation (CDO) called ABACUS 2007-AC1 where investors (such as the European banks IKB Deutsche Industrie, and ABN Amro, and the New York insurance company ACA Financial Guaranty)[6] provided the "long" by taking the risk from subprime mortgage bonds, effectively providing Paulson with insurance in the case of subprime mortgage default.[7] The deal was made in late April 2007 and several months later the bonds began to default and Paulson eventually made about $1 billion total from those investors' losses.[8][9] In total Paulson reportedly earned $15 billion on $12.5 billion of investment in 2007—a return of over 100%.[10][11]

In 2008, Paulson's bearish outlook on the credit markets continued. Paulson believed that credit problems would expand beyond subprime mortgages into consumer, auto, commercial and corporate credit, stressing financial institutions and causing some to fail. This led them to take short positions in several large financial institutions in the US and the UK that had high degrees of leverage, high concentrations of assets in deteriorating sectors and rising credit costs. Sectors include mortgage finance companies, specialty finance companies and regional, national, and global banks.[citation needed]

In September 2008, Paulson bet against four of the five biggest British banks including a £350m bet against Barclays; £292m against Royal Bank of Scotland; and £260m against Lloyds TSB.[12][13] Paulson is reported to have earned a total of £280m after reducing its short position in RBS in January 2009.[14][15]

To help protect their bets, PCI and others successfully prevented attempts to limit foreclosures and rework mortgage loans.[15][16]

Criticism and lawsuits[edit]

Paulson has been criticized in the ABACUS investment for paying Goldman $15 million to put together what was a collection of "toxic" subprime securities with his help (creating "the concept" of the "ethically challenged 'synthetic' securities") to be sold by Goldman to long investors so that Paulson could bet against it, a process critics complained was "sleazy", or the work of those lacking a "moral compass", though not illegal.[17][18][19] Paulson has replied that they "were not involved in the marketing of any Abacus products to any third parties," and that "Paulson did not sponsor or initiate Goldman's Abacus program."[20]

In April 2010, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Goldman Sachs over the ABACUS Synthetic CDO alleging Goldman had represented the assembler of the mortgage package underlying the CDOs as an objective third party (ACA Management), when in fact a "short" standing to reap great financial benefit in the event the CDO's default (Paulson) had a major role in assembling the mortgage package.[21] Paulson released a statement saying that it was "not the subject of this complaint, made no misrepresentations and is not the subject of any charges".[21][22][23][24] Goldman neither admitted nor denied the SEC allegations, but three months later paid $550 Million to settle the charges (the largest penalty a Wall Street company has ever paid to the SEC), acknowledging that it gave investors "incomplete information."[25]

In 2011, ACA Financial Guaranty ACAFG.UL filed a lawsuit against Paulson for $120 million, claiming Goldman Sachs and Paulson "deceived ACA into believing Paulson was investing in the CDO". Paulson made money betting against ACA's position in the CDO. In 2013, Paulson asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, alleging ACA had relied on "mischaracterizations, emails unrelated to Abacus, and snippets of correspondence taken out of context."[26]

Recovery and bankruptcy investment[edit]

Paulson also has a long track record of investing in distressed debt, bankruptcies and restructurings. The 2008-2009 financial crisis resulted in a record high level of defaults and bankruptcies across numerous industries, and Paulson was a large investor in many of them, including the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and liquidation.

At the end of 2008, following the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the subsequent turmoil in the markets, Paulson became selectively bullish. It launched a fund dedicated to restructuring and/or recapitalizing companies such as investment banks, hedge funds, insurance and hotel, that were feeling the pressure of the more than $345 billion of write downs of under-performing assets linked to the housing market. By providing capital to companies at "trough valuations", Paulson believed it would enable the firms to survive the crisis while Paulson would profit from recovery by buying at the market bottom.

Amongst some of the holdings disclosed in Paulson's June 30, 2009 13F filings were 2 million shares of Goldman Sachs as well as 35 million shares in Regions Financial.[27] Paulson also purchased shares of Bank of America in the spring of 2009 when the bank was forced to recapitalize its balance sheet following the results of the bank stress tests conducted by the US government, and was reported to have a 1.22% stake in the bank in 2011.[28] According to Bloomberg, Paulson purchased the shares expecting the stock to double by 2011.[29]

Paulson's invested in Citigroup and reportedly earned $1 billion in 2009 through the end of 2010, which John Paulson called a demonstration of "the upside potential of many of the restructuring investments we have added to our portfolio and our ability to generate above-average returns in large positions."[30]

In February 2010, PCI was linked to the restructuring and recapitalization of the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.[31] The agreement included restructuring about $4 billion of its $7 billion debt load by converting it to new equity issued to the senior debt holders, one of whom was Paulson. Through this debt to equity conversion, Paulson would reportedly become the company's largest equity investor.[32]

Another one of Paulson's specialties is proxy event investment. In May 2008 Carl Icahn launched a proxy fight at Yahoo to replace its board[33] and a 13F filing for the quarter ending March 31, 2008 showed ownership by Paulson of 50 million shares of Yahoo.[34]

Gold Thesis[edit]

In November 2009 Paulson announced a gold fund focused on gold mining stocks and gold-related investments[35] believing that the massive amount of balance sheet expansion from countercyclical monetary stimulus undertaken by the Federal Reserve and other central banks would eventually lead to inflation in the US dollar and other fiat currencies. In the words of John Paulson, "We view gold as a currency, not a commodity. Its importance as a currency will continue to increase as the major central banks around the world continue to print money."[6]

2011 to present[edit]

In 2011 PCI was ranked as the "world's fourth-largest hedge fund" with $36 billion in assets under management.[28][36] However, during the course of that year his Advantage fund lost 36% and Advantage Plus 52%. The funds also had double-digit losses the next year.[37] An unsuccessful investment in the Sino-Forest Corporation and a drop in the price of gold were in part responsible.

In August 2013, Paulson entered into a merger agreement for the acquisition of Steinway Musical Instruments in a transaction valued at approximately $512 million.[38] The company initiated a tender offer within five days for all of the outstanding stock, and Steinway Musical Instruments board recommended that shareholders accepted the offer.[39] In September 2013, Paulson announced the completion of acquisition of Steinway Musical Instruments.

In April 2018, the firm has taken a stake in Viacom Inc., an American media company and has become one of the top-25 shareholders.[40]

Hedge Fund business model[edit]

The firm was a partnership, the partners being John Paulson and 10+ other members of the firm.[41] Paulson provided services to investment vehicle pools and manages accounts for banking institutions, corporations and pension and profit sharing plans.[1] As of December 2015 the John Paulson's hedge funds had $19 billion assets under management, compared to $18 billion in September 2013 and $36 billion in early 2011.[42] Almost 60 percent of the assets under management belong to the firm's own employees, including John Paulson's, as of 2012.[6] External investors in the Paulson funds included financial institutions, corporate and public pension funds, endowments, foundations and high-net-worth individuals.

The hedge funds previously managed by Paulson & Co, included:[4]

  • Paulson Advantage Fund (its flagship fund)[4]
  • Paulson Advantage Plus Fund
  • Gold fund (launched in January 2010 with a long-term strategy focus investing in mining companies and bullion-based derivatives)[4]
  • Paulson Partners
  • Paulson Enhanced
  • Paulson Recovery
  • Paulson Real Estate Recovery (launched in 2009 to invest in distressed real estate markets with a 'private equity' investment style)[4]
  • Credit Opportunities Fund

Areas of expertise include:

  • Merger arbitrage: High quality spread deals, announced mergers with the possibility of higher bids, unique deal structures, short deals unlikely to close;
  • Event arbitrage: Spin-offs, litigations, restructurings, proxy contests, post-Bankruptcy equities;
  • Distressed securities: Liquidations, high yield long/short, capital structure arbitrage, bankruptcies, reorganizations.

At one time there were around 15 investment professionals in the firm, including John Paulson who was the Portfolio Manager for all funds under management. Other key investment professionals included Andrew Klaber, Andrew Hoine,[43] Nikolai Petchenikov,[44] Sheru Chowdry,[45] Sihan Shu, Michael Waldorf[46] and Ty Wallach.[41]

Paulson & Co had an external Advisory Board of well known economists that met on a monthly basis to discuss investment themes, macroeconomic risks, and global fiscal and monetary policy. Past members of the Paulson advisory Board were Alan Greenspan (President of Greenspan Associates LLP), Christopher Thornberg (Economist, Beacon Economics LLC), Edward Altman (Professor, Stern School of Business, NYU), and Martin Feldstein (Professor, Harvard University).

Paulson was registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in the United Kingdom, and the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) in Hong Kong.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Capital Markets. Company Overview of Paulson & Co. Inc". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on April 20, 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b "John Paulson". Paulson & Co. Inc. (company website). Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  3. ^ AHMED, AZAM (June 28, 2012). "Paulson Talks Returns, Regret and Retirement in New Profile". New York Times. Retrieved 16 January 2014. ... the period when everything changed – when Mr. Paulson bet against the subprime mortgage market, and made billions. Asked about how it felt to go from a nobody to an investing all star ...
  4. ^ a b c d e "Paulson & Co. - Investor Profile". Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  5. ^ Zuckerman, Gregory (April 19, 2010). "Paulson Point Man on CDO Deal Emerges as Key Figure". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  6. ^ a b c John Paulson's Very Bad Year By Sheelah Kolhatkar|| 28 June 2012
  7. ^ Morgenson, Gretchen; Story, Louise: Banks Bundled Bad Debt, Bet Against It and Won. New York Times, December 23, 2009.
  8. ^ Wilchins, Dan; Karen Brettell. "Factbox: How Goldman's ABACUS deal worked". Reuters. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  9. ^ Lucchetti, Aaron; Serena Ng (April 20, 2010). "Abacus Deal: As Bad as They Come". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  10. ^ Paulson, John. Statement to U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. November 13, 2008.
  11. ^ Gross, Daniel. "The Greatest Trade Ever". Newsweek. November 10, 2009.
  12. ^ Mackintosh, James. "Paulson's hedge fund targets UK banks". Financial Times. September 23, 2008.
  13. ^ Zuckerman, Gregory: 'The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of How John Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History'. Broadway Books. 2009. ISBN 978-0-385-52991-4.
  14. ^ Sibun, Jonathan: John Paulson makes £280m from RBS's decline. 'The Daily Telegraph. January 27, 2009.
  15. ^ a b McLean, Bethany; Nocera, Joe. "All the Devils are Here." 2010, Portfolio/Penguin. p. 290.
  16. ^ Shenn, Jody. "Hedge Funds Ask SEC to Look for Subprime Manipulation". Bloomberg. June 13, 2007.
  17. ^ Corbett, Jeff (Apr 28, 2010). "John Paulson: Goldman Scandal's Real Ringmaster?". real estate Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  18. ^ Taibbi, Matt (April 26, 2010). "Feds vs. Goldman". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  19. ^ Fiderer, David. "The Moral Compass Missing From The Greatest Trade Ever". Huffington Post. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  20. ^ Barr, Alistair (April 16, 2010). "Paulson & Co. not charged in SEC suit against Goldman". Wall Street Journal. MarketWatch. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  21. ^ a b Barr, Colin (April 16, 2010). "SEC charges Goldman Sachs with fraud". CNN. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
  22. ^ Text of civil complaint in SEC v. Goldman Sachs & Co. et al.
  23. ^ "SEC Goldman Suit Court Fillings". April 16, 2010.
  24. ^ Reckard. E. Scott. "Hedge fund operator John Paulson a key player in SEC case against Goldman Sachs". Los Angeles Times. April 17, 2010.
  25. ^ Pepitone, Julianne. "Goldman settles with SEC for $550 million". July 16, 2010. CNN Money. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  26. ^ Freifeld, Karen. "Paulson hedge fund seeks dismissal of Abacus lawsuit". March 18, 2013. reuters. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  27. ^ Woo, Terry. Two Ways: John Paulson Ups the Ante. Minyanville Gazette. August 13, 2009. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  28. ^ a b "The 2011 Hedge Fund 100 Ranking". Institutional Investor, Inc. May 12, 2011.
  29. ^ Wolinsky, Jacob. "Fair Value Of Bank Of America: Is There A Flaw In John Paulson's Math?". November 25, 2009.
  30. ^ "John Paulson makes $1bn betting on Citigroup recovery". The Telegraph. January 24, 2011.
  31. ^ "Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Secures New $650-Million Cash Investment and Recapitalizes Balance Sheet in Historic Restructuring" Archived 2010-04-19 at the Wayback Machine. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. February 22, 2010.
  32. ^ Trachtenberg, Jeffrey A. "Houghton Owner Restructures Debt". Wall Street Journal. February 23, 2010.
  33. ^ Checkler, Joseph. "Paulson Hedge Fund to Back Icahn". The Wall Street Journal. May 15, 2008.
  34. ^ U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission Site
  35. ^ "Paulson to start new gold fund". Opalesque. November 19, 2009.
  36. ^ Herbst-Bayliss, Svea. "Paulson says welcomes Bank of America settlement". Reuters. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  37. ^ Kolhatkar, Sheelah (April 2, 2013). "Judge Dismisses One Lawsuit Against Hedge Fund Founder John Paulson". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2014. His fortunes shifted in 2011, when his two largest funds, Advantage and Advantage Plus, plunged 36 percent and 52 percent, respectively. The double-digit losses continued through last year.
  38. ^ Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc.- Investor Relations - Press Release
  39. ^ "Steinway Agrees to Acquisition by Paulson & Co". Yahoo Finance. 14 August 2013.
  40. ^ Toonkel, Jessica. "Hedge fund Paulson & Co takes stake in Viacom". U.S. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  41. ^ a b Meet The 10 Hedge Fund Superstars That John Paulson Just Promoted To Partner,
  42. ^ "The World's Billionaires - John Paulson", Forbes, 30 December 2015, retrieved 31 December 2015
  43. ^ "The Greatest Trade Ever," pg. 97. referred to as "research director"
  44. ^ The Wall Street Journal Europe, "Financial News: Peek at Paulson's success --- Europe partners saw $52.7 million profit; bearish bets on banks," January 30, 2009. Petchnikov is a London-based partner.
  45. ^ The Sweet Spot, Chowdry is referred to as "Managing Director and Partner at Paulson & Co".
  46. ^ The Greatest Trade Ever," pg. 203. Referred to as "a lawyer on Paulson's team".

External links[edit]