It was the $109,000 photocopying bill that hedge fund manager William Ackman says made him realize how much he'd read and underlined before betting against bond insurer MBIA Inc. in 2002.
His law firm charged him for copying 725,000 pages of financial statements and other documents, 140,000 of them about MBIA, to comply with a subpoena. Following New York and U.S. probes of his trading and reports, Ackman persisted in challenging MBIA's AAA credit rating for more than five years, based on his own research.
Ackman may soon be proved right. MBIA, the largest provider of insurance against defaults in the global credit market, today reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $2.3 billion because of the declining value of mortgage-related securities it guaranteed. The independent research firm CreditSights Inc. this week said MBIA's credit rating may be downgraded. Ackman had warned that MBIA was magnifying its risks by backing instruments such as those based on loans to the least creditworthy homebuyers.
``It's in the nature of a shareholder activist to be persistent,'' says Ackman, now 41. ``I've been persistent because it's an important issue. People are obsessive about stupid things. They are persistent about important things.''