Meredith Whitney Winds Down Brokerage After Setting Up Fund
Meredith Whitney, who built her own Wall Street advisory firm after winning renown for a 2007 call on Citigroup Inc., deregistered her brokerage unit following three unprofitable years and is setting up an investment fund, according to industry records.
Meredith Whitney Securities LLC ended its registration with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority on Aug. 28, Finra’s website shows. She’s now chief investment officer and managing principal of a long/short fund, according to regulatory records that list Kenbelle Capital LP among her ventures.
Whitney, 43, registered Kenbelle with New York state’s corporations division in April. It’s an investment manager to a partnership based in Bermuda, according to a legal notice in a newspaper there. The fund will be focused on U.S. equities, and Whitney is in the process of hiring and fundraising, said Stanley Arkin, a lawyer at the Arkin Group LLC who said he’s a general legal adviser to Whitney.
“She has a healthy line of people who have promised to invest,” he said today in an interview. “She’s getting set to run a good-sized fund.”
A push into funds would add another twist to Whitney’s career. She left Oppenheimer & Co. to start New York-based Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC in 2009, buying the brokerage that year with plans to expand into trading. She predicted a U.S. municipal-bond apocalypse in 2010 that hasn’t materialized, also saying she would hire hundreds for a bond-ratings service.
Whitney didn’t return calls to her Madison Avenue office.
Her advisory firm hasn’t posted research for clients on its website since Sept. 19, according to a page showing several posts per week before then. The Wall Street Journal reported that the company had only one full-time investment professional, Angela Cantu, as of June. She has since left for Blackstone Group LP, her profile on LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD)’s website shows. Cantu didn’t respond to messages.
Whitney will stop selling research, Arkin said. She may still advise some clients if it isn’t inconsistent with her duties as a fund manager, he said.
Whitney started the advisory business amid media coverage including a Fortune cover story crowning her “the woman who called Wall Street’s meltdown.” Her brokerage’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings list no revenue in the past three years and about $96,000 of expenses. The unit was inactive last year outside of maintaining compliance and “introducing its services to the market,” according to the most recent report.
After predicting muni defaults totaling hundreds of billions of dollars in a December 2010 segment of CBS Corp. (CBS)’s “60 Minutes” program, she told Bloomberg News it had been “a guesstimate” involving “fifth-derivative dimensions.” Instead of collapsing, munis became a star performer of 2011.
Long/short funds make bets that some prices will fall and that others will rise, sometimes using leverage and derivatives to profit in a variety of conditions.
Whitney’s personal wealth took a hit during the financial crisis despite her forewarnings about New York-based Citigroup, according to an interview she gave Bloomberg Businessweek this year.
“I think I lost between a quarter and a half a million dollars on financial positions,” she said. “I rode Lehman all the way down to zero. It’s pretty ironic, right?”