Just over 30 years after legendary investor George Soros became a billionaire by shorting the pound, hedge funds were at it again this weekend.
Early on Monday, the U.K.’s currency nearly reached parity with the dollar, a once-unthinkable and record-setting descent that was a continuation of the market’s dramatically negative reaction on Friday to the new Conservative Party’s budget proposal. Deutsche Bank said it was the third worst day for sterling since Soros’ famous bet in 1992, with only its 3.7% plunge following the first wave of the COVID pandemic and the 8.1% plunge after the Brexit vote being worse.
Soros was a relative rebel and outsider, though. What’s different this time is that U.K.-based hedge funds with close links to the U.K. government seem to have made out with massive paydays—and now may face investigation over whether they were leaked information the rest of the market never received.
In the week to September 20, investors had actually ramped up their bullish bets on the pound to their highest level since March, Bloomberg reported, citing data from no less an authority than the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Association.
Shorting the pound seemed quite obvious to many onlookers. No less an authority than Danny Blanchflower, a former policymaker for the Bank of England, posted on Twitter on September 20 that shorting the pound would only be sensible, given how strenuously he disagreed with Truss’ policies.
But that was before Friday and Monday’s carnage. According to a report in The Times, a newspaper not known for criticizing the center-right Tories, the only recently sworn-in Prime Minister Liz Truss had hosted a dinner for hedge fund managers shortly before her spending plans sparked a selling frenzy in sterling and gilts. “They were all supporters of Truss and every one of them was shorting the pound,” a source told Rupert Murdoch’s London daily.