Unstructured Finance

This summer, it’s the John Paulson show

July 19, 2013

Hedge fund manager John Paulson has shunned the limelight in recent years but in recent weeks it’s a different story, with the 57-year-old manager not only giving his first ever TV interview, he’s also set to take the stand in one of the most closely-watched trials in the country – the civil case against former Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre.

Tourre’s lawyer Sean Coffey said in a Manhattan federal court on Friday morning they intended to call Paulson to testify in the trial. The U.S District Judge overseeing the trial estimated Paulson would probably take the stand August 1.

Tourre is accused of misleading investors on a 2007 subprime mortgage deal that Paulson’s hedge fund, Paulson & Co, was betting against. Paulson’s firm had actually helped to select the securities that were packaged into the deal. The SEC says Tourre told investors that Paulson’s firm was investing in Abacus, suggesting he expected the price of the securities to rise, when actually the hedge fund was shorting it.

The shorting of the deal, known as Abacus 2007-AC1, was part of Paulson’s broader bet against the U.S. housing market in 2007, which earned him Wall Street fame, and billions of dollars. But after two banner years, Paulson’s returns nosedived, attracting a spotlight he neither wanted or sought out.

But 2013 is shaping up to be a better year for Paulson, with several of his biggest funds posting double-digit returns through June. And as his funds climb he is clearly more amenable to the media glare, doing his first ever TV interview this week as part of CNBC’s Delivering Alpha conference.  He talked housing; gold; M&A deals… He wasn’t asked about the Tourre trial.

Paolo Pellegrini, who worked on Paulson’s subprime strategy, has already taken the stand for SEC lawyers and consensus is his testimony may have undercut part of their case against Tourre because he said that a  key participant in the Abacus deal  knew that Paulson & Co. planned to bet against it.

Meanwhile, Tourre will likely be in the hot-seat next week. Matthew Martens, a lawyer for the SEC, said in court Friday morning he anticipates “calling Mr. Tourre on Wednesday.”

There is still a chance Paulson could be scratched from the witness list.

With additional reporting by Nate Raymond

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