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trader under scrutiny for phenomenal success
* Andrew Hall bet big on long-term oil futures -- and won
* Low-key trader has preserved independence from Citi
By Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK, Aug 13, 2009 (Reuters- excerpt) - An oil trader who has rocked Wall Street and the White House over his nine-figure salary clings to a low profile, quietly making trades from a former dairy farm in Connecticut and emerging occasionally to satisfy his passion for art.
Andrew Hall, 58, a British-born naturalized American, has been phenomenally successful with the Citigroup unit Phibro, earning an estimated $100 million this year while the parent company reported a net loss of $18.7 billion in 2008 and took $45 billion in taxpayer bailouts.
In the previous five years, Hall earned more than $250 million, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of securities filings and Hall's compensation structure.
That has allowed him to acquire a fabulous art collection including his favorites among the German neoexpressionists and the American Andy Warhol, and he displays his art in his 1,000-year-old castle in Germany.
But his pay packets also have grabbed the attention of Kenneth Feinberg, the White House pay czar who is examining the compensation of the top earners at financial companies that accepted government bailouts.
A source close to the bank told Reuters on Wednesday that Hall's contract will be exempt from review because it was signed before a cut-off date of Feb. 11, 2009. But a separate source familiar with the matter said Feinberg will have flexibility in applying his authority on a case-by-case basis.
To avoid a confrontation, Hall has proposed modifications to his contract, which could include converting some of his cash compensation into equity, the Journal reported on Thursday. Hall declined to be interviewed for this article.
"Andy Hall has had a genius for seeing where the market will be a year or two years out and booking bets that have been inexpensive to put on and hugely profitable," said George Stein, managing director of Commodity Talent LLC, who has been in touch with people who have worked directly with Hall.
"He's done this several times in his career and has attracted a following among oil traders and investors," Stein said. "Other oil traders would love to have his track record."
BIG BET ON OIL
in 2003, when crude prices hovered around $30 per barrel, Hall foresaw demand
from China and went long on oil, betting heavily on long-term futures and
options that paid off when oil soared past $100 per barrel in 2008.
Through it all, he exercised the clout and independence that come with success, convincing Citi to increase its risk threshold to go longer on oil and fighting off Citi plans to integrate Phibro into its asset-management arm, the Journal reported.
then a huge commodities firm, acquired the investment bank Salomon Brothers in
1981, though the bank would gain control of the merged entity. Salomon was
later acquired by Travelers Group which in turn was acquired by Citi.
The New York Times reported on Aug. 2 that Hall was pushing for a "quiet divorce" between Phibro and Citi. In the meantime, Hall continues to trade at Phibro headquarters at a remodeled dairy farm in Westport, Connecticut, trying to stay out of the limelight.
George H. Stein, CFA
Managing Director, Commodity Talent LLC
T +1 917 545-9850