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The top 25 managers of US hedge funds took home a record $25.33 billion in 2009, according to the new issue of the industry journal AR: Absolute Return+Alpha. The unchecked moneymaking in 2009 marked a dramatic reversal from the crisis year of 2008, when the top 25 took home "only" $11.6 billion. It surpassed even the heady days of 2007, when they combined for $22 billion.
This almost unfathomable level of personal enrichment exposes President Barack Obama's Wall Street bailout. With the official unemployment rate near 10 percent, and with every level of government slashing jobs, education, and social programs, a small handful of individuals have - through shear financial manipulation - reaped one-year profits counted in the billions.
The biggest gainer in 2009 was David Tepper, head of Appaloosa Management, who took home $4 billion. In late 2008, when the share values of the major banks were crashing, Tepper correctly wagered that Obama would carry on the Bush administration's efforts to prop up the finance industry. Tepper investeded heavily in the twice-bailed out insurance giant, American International Group (AIG), which the Treasury Department determined could not be allowed to collapse because of the threat posed to its politically-connected counter-party, Goldman Sachs.
Buying into the big finance houses on the cheap, Tepper has benefited enormously. Of course, "it did not hurt that the Treasury Department was a fellow investor," as a New York Times analysis notes. Undoubtedly Tepper's ties to his former employer, Goldman Sachs, were also beneficial. The most powerful investment bank's former executives, one-time colleagues of Tepper's, populated key economic posts in the Obama and Bush administrations.
Number two on the list is Hungarian-born speculator George Soros, who is better known as a prominent financier of Democratic Party candidates and European "color revolutions." Soros took home $3.3 billion in fees and investment gains in 2009, while his fund, Quantum Endowment, grew by 29 percent, exceptionally high but far off the 130 percent gain of Appaloosa.