As the current administration continues to scold hedge fund "speculators" and blame them for potentially forcing Chrysler into bankruptcy for not accepting a deep discount on their debt (before they finally relented), those same firms may now hold more keys to the success of some of the programs being pushed by the same folks doing the scolding (see Bloomberg article).
While smaller in numbers and size than just one year ago, hedge funds are still in many instances those with the most capital and risk tolerance to participate in programs such as the TALF and PPIP. Yet, while hedge funds like making money, they hate losing it even more, especially when those losses are driven in part by the rules of the game being changed. Given the recent move to ignore and subordinate more senior debt to a status lower than other parties, hedge funds may be more cautious with future investments opportunities.
Such program participation may soon get another test as hedge funds weight their options as GM (NYSE:GM) goes through its own restructuring. Holders of GM bonds have just a few weeks to decide if they want to swap their debt for a 10 percent equity stake in the company - while the government and the United Auto Workers union-run health care funds get 50 and 39 percent, respectively. While not only getting the short end of the stick, those debt holders who also hold CDS contracts would most likely favor a bankruptcy filing (see Financial Times article).
Estimates have investors holding $34 billion in CDS on GM, with profits on the order of $2.4 billion if GM were to default. In what is not much of a surprise, current CDS prices are indicating that a bankruptcy filing is likely. The complicated and extensive lines of debt and derivatives will make both a GM bankruptcy, and any strong arm tactics, much more difficult to execute. Given less of an incentive to participate in the next restructuring, hedge funds may find others offering a little more cooperation, and maybe even a seat at the table going forward. At some point, you cannot keep slapping the hand that may save you.