Paul Singer Warned Employees on Feb. 1 to Prepare for Quarantine

At a time when most Americans hadn’t yet heard of the word coronavirus and were still flocking to concerts, sports arenas and conferences, hedge fund manager Paul Singer was planning for the disruptions to come.

On Feb. 1 — a month and a half before New York imposed a statewide lockdown to reduce the spread of the virus — Singer told employees of his $40 billionElliott Management Corp. they should prepare for a monthlong quarantine, according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg. The spread of the virus by asymptomatic carriers raises significant “uncertainty as to when its geometric growth will level off,” he wrote.

“We recommend that all employees, in all offices, try to make arrangements so that you do not have to leave your home for a month if that becomes necessary,” Singer, who’s known for his pessimistic outlook and warnings on everything from market crashes tosolar storms, said in the February memo.

The 75-year-old billionaire has one of the best records in the industry, posting just two losing years and annualized gains of about 13% since opening his firm in 1977.

In the February memo, Singer said employees should focus on “access to sufficient food, water and medicines (China is a significant manufacturer of medicines, so you might want to ensure that you have enough of what you need for several weeks), as well as any other arrangements you need to take now” to avoid having to be in public places. The New York-based firm had 473 employees as of Dec. 31 at offices in the U.S. as well as London, Hong Kong and Tokyo, according to itswebsite.

Last June, Singer said the next downturn would involve a market correction of 30% to 40%, though he couldn’t predict the timing.

As global markets collapsed in March, Elliott was flat because of hedges that offset losses elsewhere in the portfolio, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. That protected gains made earlier in the year, bringing Elliott’s return in the first quarter to 2.2%, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

A representative for the firm declined to comment.

On average, hedge funds fell about 7% in March and are down about 9% this year, according to preliminary data compiled by Bloomberg. The S&P 500 Index fell 12% last month.

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