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Lashing out while cashing in

In a scathing farewell, hedge fund whiz Lahde slams 'idiot' traders, the U.S. government and marijuana laws.

October 18, 2008|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

Andrew Lahde, the Santa Monica hedge fund manager who shot to fame with an 870% gain last year by betting on the subprime mortgage collapse, has left the building -- with a bang.

Lahde, 37, who closed his operations last month citing the risk of trading with teetering banks, said goodbye Friday to his clients and good riddance to the investment world with a stinging, widely circulated letter skewering "idiot" traders, the U.S. government and marijuana laws.

"I was in this game for the money," Lahde wrote in the two-page missive, saying he would now focus on his personal portfolio of unspecified millions. "The low-hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Bros. and all levels of our government.

"All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America."

Lahde, who earned a bachelor's degree in finance from Michigan State University and an MBA from UCLA , could not be reached for comment.

Lahde managed an estimated $80 million and was best known for his U.S. Residential Real Estate Hedge Fund V Class A portfolio, which increased an astounding 870% in 2007 after he shorted the subprime mortgage market through derivatives.

"With all due respect, I am dropping out," he wrote in his letter, first posted at Portfolio magazine's website, warning clients and would-be business partners not to expect replies to messages.

Lahde, who worked as an analyst at firms including Southern California's Roth Capital Partners and Dalton Investments before launching his own company, expressed contempt for the workaholic ways of the business world.

"Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two-week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their BlackBerries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in 50 years anyway. Steve Ballmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten. I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the BlackBerry away and enjoy life."

Lahde predicted years of pain for capital markets.

"I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life -- where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management -- with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not," he wrote. "May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established."

Showing outrage over Congress' failure over the last eight years to rein in "the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions," he urged that billionaire activist George Soros launch a forum to rethink the "corrupt" U.S. capitalist system.

Lahde closed by arguing for the legalization of hemp and marijuana. He called hemp "an alternative food and energy source" and labeled marijuana laws "ludicrous."

"My only conclusion as to why it is illegal is that Corporate America, which owns Congress, would rather sell you Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and other . . . drugs than allow you to grow a plant in your home without some of the profits going into their coffers."

In other words: Put all that in your pipe and smoke it.

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josh.friedman@latimes.com

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