Overview of hedge fund short sale rules and likely fallout from recent events

I received a request today to talk about hedge fund short sales and the likely fallout from the recent market disruptions and the failed bailout bill.

Short Sale Ban

The SEC has banned short sales on 800 individual securities.  These securities are generally within the financial services industry.  The ban on shorting these securities ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on Oct. 2, 2008. The SEC may extend the ban beyond this date if it deems an extension necessary in the public interest and for the protection of investors, but the SEC will not extend the ban for more than 30 calendar days in total duration.  (The SEC press release can be found here.)

Short Sale Disclosure Requirements

For hedge fund managers who are subject to 13F filings (i.e. those managers who manage $100mm or more), such managers will need to disclose their short positions by filing Form SH with the SEC.  More information on this can be found at 13F questions and answers or at the SEC’s website here. Please click here to view form-sh

Likely Fallout

There is so much uncertainty in the air right now.  Congress is having trouble trying to find some way to unfreeze the credit markets and money managers are just trying to find a way to stay afloat.  Additionally, as I mentioned this morning, investors are getting worried and are pulling cash out of hedge funds.  They way I see it, there are many scenarios which are likely to play out in the next couple of weeks and months:

1. Hedge fund redemptions – many investors are scared and are looking for safety right now.  While some managers are doing phenomenal in this wildly votile market, most are not and have not been doing well for much of the year.  I think that we’ll see in the coming days stories of large amounts of redemptions.

2. Hedge fund closures – as I discussed previously, because of the problems with the hedge fund high watermark, you are going to see money managers face the difficult decision of whether or not to keep their fund running.  Undoubtedly many managers will choose to close down their funds because of lack of capital (from redemptions and/or losses) or because they are too far under to make any money in the coming year.

3. Hedge fund regulation – while hedge funds have not faced the front page criticisms that the large investment banks and other financial institutions have seen over the past few weeks, the lawmakers have already began calling for investigations into the cause of this mess.  These investigations are likely to focus on systemic risks and how hedge funds may have contributed to the current market crisis.  As these reports begin spilling out over the next few weeks and months, I believe hedge funds will be a prime target and you are likely hear lawmakers facing re-election calling for more regulation.  [Please also note, Congress has indicated that it is more than willing to require more regulation of the financial markets as evidenced by its willingness to allow the CFTC to begin regulating the retail spot forex market.  For more information, please see this note from the CFTC. ]

4. Hedge fund start ups – over the next couple of months as funds begin to close down, successful traders will decide to go and start up their own hedge funds.  For these traders the transition to hedge fund manager will be difficult, but they will be able to be successful if they can find investors willing to invest in a start up hedge fund manager.  These traders will need to talk with a hedge fund attorney in order to get started with the hedge fund formation process.

5. Hedge fund due diligence will increasehedge fund due diligence is one of the areas that is set to grow quickly.  I expect that investors, especially smaller institutional investors, will require greater risk management disclosure from hedge funds.  A simple manager back ground check is no longer going to be sufficient.

6. Hedge fund consolidations – while every now and again I will hear something about hedge fund consolidation, it never really seems to happen in any sort of large scale way.  This year may be different as smaller firms with decent track record decide to merge with more established funds with greater risk management procedures.

Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to start a hedge fund.  Other related hedge fund law articles include:

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