Paulson, Bernanke: What's Said In Vegas Stays In Vegas

May 7 2015 | 10:52am ET

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Lauren Tara LaCapra (Reuters) - Would you like to know whether sage investor and mammoth hedge fund manager John Paulson is bullish on stocks? Or how about what he sees as the most promising investment opportunities today? We'd love to tell you, but we've been sworn to secrecy.

We're also dying to share what former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had to say, but we weren't even allowed in the room.

At one of the world's biggest hedge fund industry conferences, two of the most closely followed market figures, required that every word they uttered stay unreported.

The SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, known as SALT, attracts 1,800 investors who pay thousands of dollars apiece to attend the annual Las Vegas event. Vegas rules definitely applied to certain speakers: What was said in the room stayed in the room.

Paulson, who earned billions with a bet against the overheated housing market in 2007, was a marquee speaker, but all of what he said to a packed ballroom of hedge fund managers and investors was strictly off the record. The same was true for Bernanke, whose panel could not be attended by the press.

As the head of $20 billion firm Paulson & Co., Paulson's thoughts on the markets and investing are closely watched and his comments were a main draw for other investors, several said.

But he came to the conference on the condition of not having his words repeated by anyone to anyone, a SALT spokeswoman said.

According to the program, Paulson and Bernanke were both interviewed by Anthony Scaramucci, SkyBridge's founder, at separate sessions.

At times when Paulson spoke, a flashing sign reminded the audience that his comments were off the record, but the two other panelists could be quoted freely.

Prominent hedge fund managers have long shied away from the spotlight, partly because their funds are private in nature. But since the financial crisis, some have become even more withdrawn amid public outcry over their huge pay packages and the role critics say they played in the market's crash. Paulson himself has faced protests outside of his home.

At the SkyBridge event, Paulson wore his signature black suit and white shirt and shifted in his seat as he spoke about markets and investments. SkyBridge, which invests $1 billion of client money in Paulson's funds, tweeted another panelist’s comments under its conference’s Twitter account, @SALTConference, but did not mention that Paulson was speaking.

Some other managers said the reason for Paulson's reticence might be that he is worried about breaking disclosure rules. Daniel Loeb who runs $17.5 billion hedge fund Third Point permitted his words to be reported.

The Paulson panel was followed by Bernanke's. Other panels featuring prominent hedge fund managers, including Loeb, restricted video and audio recording and photographs but allowed journalists to write about what happened inside.


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