Wikipedia And The Secret Life Of The Hedge Fund

Courtesy ~ CorpWatch

One should really spend more time perusing Wikipedia. Written as they are by almost anybody, Wikipedia’s entries have often suffered criticism for possible inaccuracies, but one of the most fascinating aspects of this online encyclopaedia is not what’s being written about a particular subject, but what isn’t.

Scroll through some subject matter and you’ll find great long pages of facts, yet on others there’s less than half a page. That may be because the subject matter just isn’t particularly interesting: “Joe Bloggs, born in London, England, 1966; unmarried; no children; died London, England, 2014.” But, often, the truly fascinating entries are those that should be pages long, but aren’t.

Today there was a report from the BBC regarding the collapse of a potential takeover between two giants of the food industry, Kraft Heinz and the Anglo-Dutch company, Unilever. Do you ever wonder just who owns these vast conglomerates?

The BBC states:

Kraft Heinz is jointly controlled by the billionaire investor Warren Buffett and the Brazilian private equity group 3G. The latter has a deserved reputation for taking a scythe to costs – irrespective of how that might impact jobs and factories.
Unilever, on the other hand, has a reputation for doing the right thing in terms of corporate social responsibility and the environment – even if that eats into the bottom line. [1]

Note this comment concerning the equity group, 3G: “The latter has a deserved reputation for taking a scythe to costs – irrespective of how that might impact jobs and factories.”

Most of us know something of Warren Buffet, apart from him being the second wealthiest man in the world. Wikipedia tells us a lot more. You’ll scroll a long way down the page before reaching the end of Buffet’s entry. Similarly, the entry for Unilever is just as long, if not more so.

But who’s ever heard of the cut-throat company, 3G? Here’s where it gets really interesting. Wikipedia tells us:

3G Capital is a Brazilian multibillion-dollar investment firm, founded in 2004 by principals Jorge Paulo Lemann, Carlos Alberto Sicupira, Marcel Herrmann Telles and Roberto Thompson Motta.

Okay, let’s read all about this multi-billion dollar company. Sadly, we can’t. Well, no more than thirteen lines, anyway. The entry goes on to say that 3G owns Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Kraft Foods. Kraft Foods alone was worth over $23 billion by 2013 figures. It doesn’t state that on February 14th 2014 they bought Heinz Foods for $23 billion (another St Valentine’s Day Massacre?), though we do learn that in 2015 they merged Kraft with Heinz. The only other information is three lines about their offices and management.

Why is so little information available about this huge financial company? Its website is minuscule and has virtually no information at all, though the “Investors log-in” might reveal more – if one were an investor!

With such huge amounts of money being bandied about the obvious question is: who regulates it all? We can get this answer from Wikipedia, but it’s hidden away as a link down the bottom of the ‘3G’ page. Whatever fancy name it calls itself, 3G is basically a hedge fund run by four of the wealthiest men in Brazil (with a little assistance from Warren Buffet). The hedge fund regulatory authority is: ‘The Hedge Fund Standards Board’, which according to Wikipedia:

is [a] non-profit international group of hedge funds which was established in 2007, based in London, England.

It is a standard setting organisation for the hedge fund industry and sets the voluntary standard of best practice principles and practices endorsed by its members. Known as the Hedge Fund Standards these are designed to create a “… framework of transparency, integrity and good governance” in the way the hedge fund industry operates. The board was established in 2007 by 14 leading hedge fund managers and chaired by Sir Andrew Large to develop the standards. By 2016 it had almost 200 hedge fund managers and institutional investors as members who between them manage or invest US$ 3tn.

So the regulatory standards covering the management of three trillion US dollars are set solely by the hedge fund industry themselves. Incidentally, if you think Sir Andrew Large might be just the man to keep them in line, think again. Wikipedia tells us:

His career began with British Petroleum Ltd (1964–71). Subsequently he was an investment banker for twenty years becoming a member of the management board of Swiss Bank Corporation from 1987–1989. He was Chairman of the Securities and Investments Board (precursor of the Financial Services Authority FSA) from 1992–1997, and deputy chairman of Barclays Bank from 1998–2002. Also, he is on the advisory board of OMFIF where he is regularly involved in meetings regarding the financial and monetary system.

In other words, he’s one of them. Oh, and by the way, Wikipedia’s entry on the Hedge Fund Standards Board runs to – a mere ten lines.

When we seek out a Wikipedia entry for any of the four ‘owners’ of 3G the results are desultory. Jorge Paulo Lemann has the most detailed entry, but then he was a professional tennis player for a while. It also catalogues his career in the finance industry and how he met Warren Buffet.

Details on the other three founders of 3G are somewhat more sparse. Carlos Alberto Sicupira is given a grand total of five lines (though it does state his net worth is around ten billion dollars); Marcel Herrmann Telles’ entry runs to twelve lines, giving his net worth as thirteen billion dollars, and Roberto Thompson Motta has no Wikipedia entry at all.

It seems the less of a Wikipedia page there is the more secretive the subject wishes to remain (unless, of course, your name is Joe Bloggs). With the possible exception of the world of espionage, nothing is more secretive, or less well regulated, than the world of the hedge fund.

Wikipedia is a fascinating website, but often one learns more, not by perusing the content, but reading between the lines. And if you’re wondering what the hell OMFIF is I can tell you its the ‘Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum’. But you’ll not find an entry for it in Wikipedia.

I wonder why?

[1] “Kraft Heinz drops Unilever takeover bid” BBC, February 20th 2017

2 Replies to “Wikipedia And The Secret Life Of The Hedge Fund”

  1. I’ve never really understood hedge funds – at least attaching the simple definition to the term – investing, using borrowed money with expectation of large gain.
    I can understand yer average risk-taking Joe Bloggs maybe trying this, if he ever had the chance, but why would already filthy rich (and then some) financiers still need to do it?

    Anyway – whatever happens those bas….s best keep their hands off our favourite Heinz salad cream, or it’ll be pitchforks at the ready! 😉

  2. I worked with “financial engineers’ in the late eighties and learned more than I ever needed to about these intertwined hedge funds and their structural complexity.

    Food security with these giants you mention is now a thing of the past I would assume?


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