Amaranth Advisors

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Amaranth Advisors LLC was created in 2000 as a multi-strategy hedge fund with approximately $600 million in capital. It sought to employ a diverse group of arbitrage trading strategies particularly featuring convertible bonds, mergers and utilities. In 2002, Amaranth added energy commodity trading to its slate of strategies with JP Morgan Chase clearing Amaranth’s commodity trades. A multi-strategy fund runs several different strategies in-house that contribute to the total performance of the fund. A single-strategy fund concentrates the whole portfolio on one strategy. Amaranth was long natural gas futures. They enjoyed huge profits from natural gas futures and option trades in 2005 and early 2006. Brian Hunter used borrowed money to double-down on his bets. Buying more futures contracts of this same kind supported their price by increasing demand, which then increased the price gains. It seemed that Brian Hunter was acting on his own entity and that there was little to no communication between the star trader and the management team. Even though the firm emphasized that its fund was multi-strategy, most of the recent losses were driven by adverse natural gas trades. Prior to this debacle, most investors who viewed reports from this firm saw no reason to worry about its performance although some privy to their portfolio positions expressed concern. Amaranth’s misfortunes were solely a result of poor risk management. Also, even though the firm lost over $6 billion in a matter of days, the losses had minimal impact in the industry as a whole. The hearings on natural gas speculation by the permanent subcommittee on investigations of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs clearly demonstrate that the Amaranth debacle could have been easily avoided had ICE like NYMEX had the ability to limit Amaranth positions. In 2006, NYMEX examined Amaranth’s positions and calculated that Amaranth held about 51% of the open interest in the...
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