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25 Nov 2008

Hedge Fund Group Gottex Opens Office in Dubai, Hires Ex-Lehman Manager

Independent alternative asset and hedge fund management group, Gottex Fund Management Holdings Limited, announced the opening of an office in Dubai to capitalise on the growth opportunities in the region.

In addition, Gottex appointed Wassim Nasrallah as Managing Director responsible for sales and marketing in the Middle Eastern region. With significant business lines already in the Middle East, Gottex says the region is one of its core growth areas over the coming years. The region and office will be managed by Hashem Arouzi, Managing Director and a founding partner of Gottex. Wassim Nasrallah, who recently joined Gottex from Lehman Brothers, will work alongside Hashem Arouzi in Dubai and co-manage the region.

"We are very pleased to announce the opening of our new Dubai office which will enable us to better service and expand our Middle Eastern customer base," Joachim Gottschalk, Chairman and CEO of Gottex, said, "Similarly, we welcome Wassim to Gottex, who, with his extensive experience in the Gulf region, will be essential to our growth plans in the Middle East."

Before joining Gottex, Wassim Nasrallah worked for Lehman Brothers International, where he was Head of Generalist Sales in Dubai for Capital Markets and Investment Management products. While at Lehman he was involved in Private Investment Management in Boston, New York and Dubai.

Incorporated in Guernsey, Gottex provides investment management services to a diversified range of hedge funds and funds of hedge funds. The Gottex group also structures and manages specialised fund of hedge funds, managed accounts, real asset funds and provides related investment advisory services. As of 30 September 2008, Gottex had $13.5 billion in assets under management (AUM).

New Yorker Review; Ben Bernanke and the Financial Crisis

Coming in the December 1, 2008, issue of The New Yorker, “Anatomy of the Meltdown”, John Cassidy provides a comprehensive look at the progression of the economic crisis and speaks with Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, who tells Cassidy, “I and others were mistaken early on in saying that the subprime crisis would be contained.

Bernanke, who began his tenure as Fed chairman in 2006 by upholding the hands-off free-market principles of his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, “was more concerned about inflation and unemployment, the Fed’s traditional areas of focus, than he was about the growth of mortgage securities,” Cassidy writes.

While some economists warned that a nationwide housing slump could trigger a recession, Bernanke and his colleagues thought this was unlikely. In August 2007, after trading in the mortgage-securities market had dried up, Cassidy writes, Bernanke finally “realized that the subprime crisis posed a grave threat to some of the country’s biggest financial institutions and that Greenspan-era policies were insufficient to contain it.”

He and the Fed came up with a two-part plan (later referred to as the Bernanke Doctrine): they lowered the federal funds rate and instituted novel programs to lend money directly to institutions. Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, tells Cassidy, “He was behind the curve at every stage of the story. He didn’t see the housing bubble until after it burst. Until as late as this summer, he downplayed all the risks involved.”

In early 2008, the Fed was faced with the collapse of Bear Stearns, which Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson elected to save by helping facilitate the sale of the company to J. P. Morgan at a cut rate and absorbing its twenty-nine-billion-dollar portfolio of subprime securities. “It quickly became clear that an important precedent had been set: the Bernanke doctrine now included preventing the failure of major financial institutions,” Cassidy writes. “I think we did the right thing to try to preserve financial stability,” Bernanke tells Cassidy. “That’s our job. Yes, it’s moral-hazard-inducing, but the right way to address this question is not to let institutions fail and have a financial meltdown.”

The Bear Stearns rescue brought widespread criticism from the media, conservative economists, and other Fed officials. Bernanke was also criticized when the Fed moved to prop up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as the move was seen as a poor use of taxpayer money. Cassidy writes, “Bernanke couldn’t say so publicly, but he agreed with some of the critics. For years, the Fed had warned that Fannie and Freddie were squeezing out competitors and engaging in risky mortgage-lending practices.” Yet, Cassidy notes, “despite their financial problems, Fannie and Freddie still had many powerful allies in Congress, and Bernanke was determined that the plan be approved quickly, in order to restore confidence in the markets.”

In late August, 2008, “Bernanke still believed that his finger-in-the-dike strategy was working,” Cassidy writes. “A lot can still go wrong, but at least I can see a path that will bring us out of this entire episode relatively intact,” he told a visitor to his office in August. Then, in September, Bernanke and Paulson were faced with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. “Remarkably, once the potential bidders dropped out, Bernanke and Paulson never seriously considered mounting a government rescue of Lehman,” Cassidy writes. “Bernanke and other Fed officials say that they lacked the legal authority to save the bank.” “It’s really hard for me to accept that they couldn’t have come up with something,” Baker tells Cassidy. “They’ve been doing things of dubious legal authority all year. Who would have sued them?” “At the time, a popular interpretation of Lehman Brothers’ demise was that Bernanke and Paulson had finally drawn a line in the sand,” Cassidy writes, but, less than forty-eight hours later, the Fed agreed to extend up to eighty-five billion dollars to the failing insurance giant A.I.G.

“We felt we could say that this was a well-secured loan and that we were not putting fiscal resources at risk,” a senior Fed official tells Cassidy, who notes that A.I.G. was also a much bigger and more complex firm than Lehman Brothers was. Yet the bailout of A.I.G. could not calm the markets. “The subprime virus was infecting parts of the financial system that had appeared immune to it—including the most risk-averse institutions,” Cassidy writes.

On September 17th, Bernanke asked Paulson to accompany him to Capitol Hill and make the case for a congressional bailout of the entire banking industry. “We can’t keep doing this,” Bernanke told Paulson. “Both because we at the Fed don’t have the necessary resources and for reasons of democratic legitimacy, it’s important that the Congress come in and take control of the situation.” “It was a very important step,” Bernanke tells Cassidy. “It greatly diminished the threat of a global financial meltdown. But as Hank Paulson said publicly, ‘You don’t get much credit for averting a disaster.’ ” Yet there is indication that the disaster may not have been averted. “Last week, the stock market plunged to its lowest level in eleven years, auto executives flew into Washington on their corporate jets to demand a bailout, and Wall Street analysts warned that the political vacuum between Administrations could create more turmoil,” Cassidy writes.

“Paulson’s and Bernanke’s efforts to prop up the financial system have so far had little effect on the housing slump, which is the source of the trouble. Until that problem is addressed, the financial sector will remain under great stress.”