Those hopes were dashed. Sensing imminent failure, Goldman began selling Archegos’s assets the next morning, followed by Morgan Stanley, to recoup their money. Other banks soon followed.

As ViacomCBS shares flooded onto the market that Friday because of the banks’ enormous sales, Mr. Hwang’s wealth plummeted. Credit Suisse, which had acted too slowly to stanch the damage, announced the possibility of significant losses; Nomura announced as much as $2 billion in losses. Goldman finished unwinding its position but did not record a loss, a person familiar with the matter said. ViacomCBS shares are down more than 50 percent since hitting their peak on March 22.

Mr. Hwang has laid low, issuing only a short statement calling this a “challenging time” for Archegos.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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Investment Firm’s Collapse Put Unseen Risks on Full Display

After the implosion of a little-known investment firm saddled banks around the world with billions of dollars in losses last week, one big question is being asked all over Wall Street: How did they let this happen?

The answer may stem from the way the firm, Archegos Capital Management, with ample assistance from at least half a dozen banks, made bets on stocks without actually owning them.

Archegos used esoteric financial instruments known as swaps, which get their name from the way they exchange one stream of income for another. In this case, Wall Street banks bought certain stocks Archegos wanted to bet on, and Archegos paid the banks a fee. Then, the banks paid Archegos the stocks’ returns.

These swaps magnified the fund’s buying power, but they also created a two-pronged problem. Archegos was able to build up much more influence over the share prices of a few companies, including ViacomCBS and Discovery, than it could afford on its own. And because there are few regulations about these types of trades, it was under no disclosure obligations.

was embroiled in an insider-trading case under his leadership. But it used leverage — essentially, trading with borrowed money to amplify its buying power — perhaps as much as eight times its own capital, some Wall Street analysts calculated.

In this case, leverage showed up in the form of swap contracts. In return for a fee, the bank agrees to pay the investor what the investor would have gotten from actually owning a share over a certain period. If a stock rises in price, the bank pays the investor. If it falls, the investor pays the bank.

Archegos focused its bets on the share prices of a relatively small number of companies. They included ViacomCBS, the corporate parent of the country’s most-watched network; the media company Discovery; and a handful of Chinese technology firms. The banks it used to buy swaps held millions of shares in ViacomCBS alone.

Normally, big institutional investors are required by the S.E.C. to publicly disclose their holdings of stock at the end of each quarter. That means investors, lenders and regulators will know when a single entity holds a big ownership stake in a company.

But S.E.C. disclosure rules don’t usually cover swaps, so Archegos didn’t have to report its large holdings. And none of the banks — at least seven that are known to have had relationships with Archegos — saw the full picture of the risk the fund was taking, analysts say.

the most recent data available, according to the Bank for International Settlements, an international consortium of central banks.

Mitsubishi UFJ Securities Holdings Company, a unit of the Japanese financial conglomerate, reported a potential loss of around $270 million.

Analysts say the damage was relatively contained, and while the losses have been large for some players, they’re not big enough to pose a threat to the broader financial system.

But the episode will most likely reinvigorate a push to expand the regulation of derivatives, which have been associated with many prominent financial blowups. During the 2008 crisis, the insurance giant AIG nearly collapsed under the weight of unregulated swaps contracts it wrote.

The cascade of problems that began with Archegos was only the latest example of derivatives’ ability to increase unseen risk.

“During the financial crisis of 2008, one of the biggest problems was that many of the banks didn’t know who owed what to whom,” said Tyler Gellasch, a former S.E.C. lawyer who heads the Healthy Markets Association, a group that pushes for market reforms. “And it seems that happened again here.”

Matthew Goldstein contributed reporting.

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Banks Face Billions in Losses as a Bet on ViacomCBS and Other Stocks Goes Awry

Mr. Hwang had worked under the billionaire hedge fund titan Julian Robertson at Tiger Management, making him one of the firm’s famous alumni, or “cubs,” when he started his own fund, Tiger Asia. But in 2012, he faced an insider-trading investigation; securities regulators said Tiger Asia had used confidential information to bet against the shares of Chinese stocks, and had manipulated other shares.

Mr. Hwang entered a guilty plea to wire fraud on behalf of Tiger Asia and paid millions of dollars in fines while also accepting a five-year ban on managing public money as a result of the settlement with the S.E.C. He reorganized the firm as a family office, meaning it was no longer managing outside money, and renamed it Archegos Capital Management; archegos is a Greek word meaning leader or founding father, and is used in the Bible to refer to Jesus.

“It’s not all about money, but it’s about long term,” Mr. Hwang said in a 2018 video in which he discussed his faith and work. “God certainly has a long-term view.”

According to four people familiar with the matter, Mr. Hwang had recently built large holdings in a small number of stocks, including ViacomCBS and Discovery, which also operates the cable channels TLC and the Food Network, and the Chinese companies RLX Technology and GSX Techedu. Those bets unraveled spectacularly in just a few days last week.

Last Monday, shares of RLX Technology, an e-cigarette company, tumbled sharply after Chinese regulators presented potential new regulations on the industry. RLX securities listed in the United States, called American depositary receipts, tumbled 48 percent. The next day, GSX Techedu, a tutoring company that has been a target of short sellers in recent years who claimed the firm’s sales numbers were overstated, fell 12.4 percent.

On Wednesday, ViacomCBS sold a batch of shares on the open market to raise money to finance its new streaming businesses, exacerbating Mr. Hwang’s situation. His firm began fielding queries from worried banks. Lenders at Goldman Sachs urged Archegos to pare its exposure, said two people familiar with those conversations. But Archegos pushed back, saying the battered stocks would recover, one of the people said.

By Friday morning, when Archegos was unable to post additional “margin,” Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, two of Archegos’s main lenders, had declared the fund to be in default, four people briefed on the matter said. Their action paved the way for Goldman Sachs and others to do the same. Soon, huge blocks of stocks were on offer.

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