JPMorgan may have hauled in as much as $750 million from the trades it took over from Amaranth, according to a story in Investment Dealers’ Digest. That’s pretty good for a position JPMorgan held for just a few weeks before handing it off to Citadel.
But even more importantly, the IDD story provides the outlines of what we’ve come to think of as the Amaranth Conspiracy Theory (ACT for short).
In its third-quarter earnings call, JPMorgan said it profited by taking over Amaranth's natural-gas positions. JPMorgan did not disclose how much it made, but according to one senior commodities executive at a JPMorgan rival, the bank earned $750 million on the trades. A JPMorgan spokesman declined to disclose the size of the bank's windfall.
JPMorgan earned money from Amaranth's losses by purchasing the hedge fund's natural gas positions when prices were under pressure and the fund was forced to liquidate to meet its margin requirements. When prices rebounded, JPMorgan reaped the benefits.
The eyebrow-raising part, for some observers, is that JPMorgan was prime broker to Amaranth and so was presumably the one doing the forcing. "I don't know if they did anything wrong, but when you pull the plug on a company and make a lot of money, it's a bit curious," says Berman (a lawyer for some Amaranth investors). The JPMorgan spokesman declined to give details on the dealings between Amaranth and the bank.
You get the idea: Amaranth didn't fall off a cliff. It was pushed.
Amaranth Fallout Could Hold Surprises [Investment Dealers' Digest subscription only]