All-star team of traders and academics lost billions. Why?

"Key lesson to be learnt from the collapse of LTCM"

In 1994, John Meriwether, the famed Salomon Brothers bond trader, founded a hedge fund called Long-Term Capital Management. Meriwether assembled an all-star team of traders and academics in an attempt to create a fund that would profit from the combination of the academics' quantitative models and the traders' market judgement and execution capabilities. Sophisticated investors, including many large investment banks, flocked to the fund, investing $1.3 billion at inception. But four years later, at the end of September 1998, the fund had lost substantial amounts of the investors' equity capital and was teetering on the brink of default. To avoid the threat of a systemic crisis in the world financial system, the Federal Reserve orchestrated a $3.5 billion rescue package from leading U.S. investment and commercial banks. In exchange the participants received 90% of LTCM's equity.

The lessons to be learned from this crisis are:

(1) Market values matter for leveraged portfolios

(2) Liquidity itself is a risk factor

(3) Models must be stress-tested and combined with judgement

(4) Financial institutions should aggregate exposures to common risk factors

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