At Conference of Elites, the Distress of Others Is an Investment Opportunity

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David Dayen in The Intercept [h/t: Fawzia Naqvi]:

I’M REASONABLY CERTAIN I was the only attendee arriving to the Milken Institute Global Conference by Los Angeles public bus. The organizers recommended that, with parking at a premium around the Beverly Hilton, people use “limo, Uber, Lyft, or taxi,” in that order.

A fifth option was presumably a corporate jet; a $72 million Bombardier Global 7000 was parked adjacent to a bar and lounge, and available for attendee tours.

The Milken conference, named after the junk bond financier who went to prison for securities law violations, is the closest thing that we on the West Coast have to Davos. It’s the kind of place where you can hear one stranger say to another, “You work in Hong Kong? I work in Hong Kong as well!”

Heads of state hobnob with heads of business, and a few celebrities – Kobe Bryant, Tom Hanks – are sprinkled in as well. But most attendees have the words “Capital Management” somewhere on their badges. It’s where the financial elite get together to tell each other elite things, and nod sagely at the results.

“Emerging markets will either be at the bottom of your portfolio or the top,” intoned Afsaneh Beschloss, founder of the hedge fund Rock Creek, during a panel on investing. “Sometimes in the middle.”

It’s like if Tom Friedman was multiplied by 4,300 and congregated in a hotel lobby.

At the root, the Milken conference is an investor conference. Attendees want to know about national politics and global military campaigns, but only insofar as that intelligence produces new opportunities to make money. A panel called “Value in Turmoil” was as packed as any that I attended. “Opportunities in distress” was a recurring theme.

“There’s a lot more hope in emerging markets,” said Steve Tananbaum, a vulture fund investor with GoldenTree Asset Management during a panel in the International Ballroom, the same place where they hold the Golden Globes. “Argentina and Brazil, there’s a reaction that’s a positive, pro-market reaction,” he added, referring to the attempted coup on Dilma Roussef. Discussion of the effect on people living in these countries was outside the frame of reference.

More here.

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