Financial Armageddon Possible Tomorrow, Says Tom Wolfe

Last week the Observer, Tom Wolfe said the truly rich would be protected from the Wall Street meltdown because all the smart guys had long since decamped for hedge funds, leaving investment banks staffed by "real second-raters." This weekend in the Times, the author of Bonfire of the Vanities clarified that statement by adding that elite hedge funders may still be ruined, just not until September 30, that is to say tomorrow. In other words, these strapping Masters of the Universe are so ingenious they staved off the sad fate of i-bankers for all of maybe 14 extra days:

Their hedge funds have blown up here and there, but unlike the investment banks, they are still very much in business. They have hurriedly pulled themselves into defensive positions inside their shells, like turtles. Their Armageddon, if any, will not come for two more days, which is to say, Tuesday, Sept. 30.

Most hedge funds open up a crack on Sept. 30, Dec. 31, March 31 and June 30 to give investors the chance to “redeem” their investments, meaning take their money out. These moments are called gates, like a series of gates in a prison. The gate is the limit, the fixed percentage of your money, that the fund will allow you to take out at one time. Even with these strict caps on withdrawals, some funds may end up nothing but shells.

But hedge funders are still superior, Wolfe added, because only they practice the magic of "saving," leaving them with a "nut" that will be just fine when their funds collapse, because they don't lead ostentatious lives of excess like investment bankers. Ha!

In any case, thanks for the warning, Tom. For a minute there we were all worried the torrent of horrific bad news might slow down this week!