We Have a Winner, and His Name is Bill Gross

Say what you will about the man, but PIMCO fund manager Bill Gross has clearly proven adept at getting his way throughout this credit crisis — and investors in his funds are reaping the rewards. The UK Telegraph reported earlier this week that the U.S. Treasury’s move to place Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) into conservatorship netted Gross and his fund $1.7 billion in profit. (And that was just in the one day after the bailout took place.) Gross had loaded up his Total Return Fund with agency debt in recent months, moving away from corporate bonds and Treasury securities; he was also among the most vocal critics of the GSEs after doing so, repeatedly calling for the government to step in. Which they eventually did. Not that PIMCO was alone in making the move; as HW reported in July, investors including Nomura Asset Management, T. Rowe Price Group Inc., RiverSource Institutional Advisors and U.S. Bancorp’s FAF Advisors all jumped long into the agency debt market — to the tune of more than $1 trillion at the time. But Gross was clearly the most vocal of investors, and that has left at least some questioning his motives, even as he praised the move by the Treasury. “Today’s Treasury announcement is a positive move that ultimately should slow the decline of housing prices, prevent accelerating foreclosures, and reduce the negative momentum of the economy,” he told Reuters in an interview on Monday. Whether any of those assertions have weight remains to be seen; HW has covered some of the problems tied to the government’s near-singular focus on debt holders, preferred equity being perhaps the largest. “We’re not usually advocates of the government fist vs. free market’s hand. But we have (advocated federal aid) because of what’s happened,” Gross told the Orange County Register’s Jon Lansner earlier this week, defending his investments and his approach. “It was self-serving because that was our forecast.” Disclosure: The author held no relevant positions when this story was published; indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.

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