Crispin Odey: the fall of a hedge fund maverick | FT Film
The Crispin Odey story is about greed, a culture of secrecy and alleged abuse. Odey was one of Britain's richest men and most successful hedge fund managers while allegedly getting away with assaulting and harassing women for decades. Odey Asset Management has started to unravel ever since an FT investigation into his behaviour
Filmed by Richard Topping, Petros Gioumpasis and Evan Zell. Graphics by Russell Birkett. Produced, directed and edited by Daniel Garrahan
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A culture of secrecy.
Crispin Odey was one of Britain's wealthiest men and one of its most successful hedge fund managers.
He was this bygone figure from a bygone era.
He started to stroke my leg under the desk. I did not want to be alone with this man.
He has continued to behave like this. He has been protected.
It's been one of the quickest and most decisive unravelings of a hedge fund that I can remember.
It wasn't the company that assaulted the women. He is the one who needs to be held to account.
Crispin Odey is or was a very high profile financier, the hedge fund maverick.
One of Britain's wealthiest men and one of its most successful hedge fund managers.
He harks back to a time when the hedge fund world was a cottage industry, predominantly running money for high net worth individuals. You typically had these intense, charismatic, larger-than-life characters who had their name on the door. Odey Asset Management is the firm that Crispin Odey founded in 1991. It's one of the UK's oldest hedge funds.
The last bastion of that 1980s world of finance, the really, red blooded, unapologetic money making.
So he's known for making some very clever bets on markets over the years, as well as some poor ones.
He would take these hugely risky punts on the world based on how he saw it and where he saw it was going.
Some people have said that he's blended his financial and his political interests a little too closely.
It's the financial crisis that really cemented Odey's reputation as an investor. He started shorting the UK banks in 2007, which is betting that their prices would fall. This would prove to be extremely prescient, and he made a killing during 2008, when the world was in financial collapse.
One of our sources told us about this meeting where Crispin walks in and tells them all to short the banks. And they're sitting there flabbergasted.
That was part of the process that should have been carried out.
But also completely captivated by this maverick kind of brilliance.
Odey's also been a prominent political donor, both to his friend Boris Johnson's leadership campaign...
Good afternoon, everybody.
And to several pro-Brexit campaigns.
After Brexit he shorted the pound, at least for a little while, so an enormous gain, like hundreds of millions of pounds.
He would go for lunch in the creme de la creme of Mayfair's restaurants - Scott's, the Gavroche, the Connaught Hotel, Harry's Bar, Corrigan's.
And he sort of represents this era where you go for these long, boozy lunches, come back slightly sozzled. You're still at it. You're still trading. And some days that makes you millions, and some days it doesn't.
The staff there were effectively nobility. You had dukes, marquesses, viscounts, earls.
Odey Asset Management feels like a sort of boy's public school, a gun cabinet to store your gun before the shooting weekend. But the world has moved on, and he hasn't.
He's enormously influential, but he's also massively abused the power that he's had.
In 2020, Crispin Odey was charged with one count of indecent assault. The trial was held in a magistrate's court, which was a big win for Odey's defence and decided by a judge rather than a jury. He was cleared, and the judge told Odey that he could walk out of the courtroom with his good character intact. And the judge also heavily criticised the complainant. So he said that she had a vivid imagination and suggested that she was influenced by her desire for publicity.
Shortly after Odey was acquitted in court, The Sunday Times ran a piece saying that a woman said he had groped her in a restaurant in 2008. A few weeks after The Sunday Times article came out, Bloomberg ran a piece saying that he had sexually harassed two women, including an employee.
Odey Asset Management opened an investigation into him. They kept the financial watchdog, the financial conduct authority, abreast of what was going on. They found that he had violated a final written warning they gave him. They wanted to begin a disciplinary proceeding against him because of it. And instead Odey sacked his executive committee, brought in another. When that other executive committee also refused to drop the disciplinary proceedings, he sacked them too.
So the current executive committee at Odey Asset Management are the third. And they told the FCA that he was... they thought he was fit and proper. And the FCA has been aware of this.
It all just seemed to kind of wash off him. So for the next 18 months there wasn't any more negative press. Until December 2022, Tortoise Media published a podcast.
According to her evidence, he lunged at her and was all over her like an octopus. She said that she was then forced to wrestle him off and run out the door. For me, the story started in October 2022, around the time of Liz Truss's mini-budget.
Her chancellor was Kwasi Kwarteng. Soon before Kwarteng was made chancellor, he went to Crispin Odey's private house in Chelsea for a private lunch. My editor saw this and thought, there's a real problem here. A really big hedge fund manager courting the business secretary, who everyone expected to be the chancellor and radically change the economic policy of the UK.
He told me, there's one woman who I know had an issue with Crispin Odey. I met this woman. She told me Crispin Odey assaulted her at a restaurant about 13 years ago. Quite quickly, that one woman became five.
Someone who's lunched with him for many years says that Crispin Odey is a man who, whatever the temperature, sweats.
I listened to the podcast. I thought it was brilliant. It was excellently reported, really thorough. They had loads of evidence.
You would hear these accounts from different women who never spoke, didn't know each other, worked in different fields, lived in different countries some of them. Yet the way they made their allegations of assault, it was like looking at a fingerprint. It was the same - the lunging, the tongue, the groping.
It didn't have the impact, certainly the women who gave us interviews for this podcast were expecting. So there was no regulatory intervention. It was like nothing happened.
It all just seemed to bounce off Crispin yet again. None of it hit home. Just two months later his firm was awarded management firm of the year at these very glitzy hedge fund awards. By December 2022, eight women had come forward with allegations about Crispin Odey, either to the police or to other media groups. In the meantime, myself and Antonia started trying to find new sources ourselves.
You just feel like there is likely to be a huge amount more out there, so we just decided that we would do it deeper.
But we wanted Paul's help because Paul had had new sources come to him post podcast. We got the FT to agree to let us team up with him.
I started working at Odey Asset Management in March 2003. I had just moved to London from Australia. He was extremely inappropriate in many ways. The physical attention with how he looked at you. Unfortunately, being on that reception desk you are often on your own. And so that was a great opportunity for him to do whatever he wanted to do. And that's where the majority of the massages occurred.
They were quite forceful. They would start on your shoulders and move down your ribs to try to touch your breasts. I remember vividly having to pin my arms to my side and cover my chest so that couldn't happen. It wasn't always possible to avoid being in his presence.
I was asked to sit next to him to open the mail. And when I declined I was told I had to sit there by another fund manager at the time. And that happened in a full floor of traders.
He started to stroke my leg under the desk. When I moved away he laughed and said I need to start enjoying things like this. And I didn't know what to do in that moment. Because if everybody condoned his behaviour and allowed that to happen, what could I do?
By February, we realised we would potentially have enough to do a full-blown investigation. We spoke to 13 women. Of the 13 women, eight said that they were sexually assaulted by Crispin Odey.
I was introduced to Mr Odey through mutual friends in November 2021. I was being represented by a lawyer for a legal dispute, and it turned out it was the same lawyer that Mr Odey had been represented by. He asked me if I liked shooting pheasants. I said I did. And he said I must invite you to come to one of my shoots.
It was a normal shooting weekend, of which I've been to many. At the end of the dinner everyone is still sitting at the table. Odey said to me across the table, let's go and sit next door, and I want you to bring me up to speed on the court case.
I picked up my glass of wine, and we went to a small room just next door to the dining room. We discussed where we were with my legal situation. We were in two chairs opposite the fire, and I got up to leave to go back.
He grabbed me, and he pulled me onto his knee. He groped my breasts. He forced his tongue into my mouth.
I pushed him off and said, what on earth are you doing? And then he took my hand by the wrist, and he forced it between his legs and clamped it onto his erect penis. Whilst my hand was being forced onto him, he said, this is how excited you make me feel.
He did it by force. I hadn't done anything to give him any reason to think it was OK to do what he was doing.
A number of allegations were incredibly violent. One woman, he assaulted her by penetration with his fingers whilst masturbating over her.
One incident was so traumatic that I've blocked the majority of it from my mind. I don't remember much, but I remember that at times he was on his knees. He put his hand up my shirt, that he was trying to touch my breasts, that my make-up was all over his shirt. And I think there's a reason that I've blocked it from my mind.
Within the walls of his firm it was an open secret, and so much so that we've had plenty of women tell us that within the first week or two of joining that they were warned don't get in the office lift with Crispin Odey.
His arrogance is just extraordinary. How he has in such strange situations, environments, not just in the workplace, but in restaurants, for me at a dinner party, he has continued to behave like this.
A woman who is referred to in the article as Emily alleged that the first time he assaulted her he just wants to put his hand inside her shirt. And so he does. So the second time when he assaults her, she's sort of prepared for it. She screams.
So she's trying to leave a meeting room that she's been having a conversation with Odey in, and as she's trying to leave he grabs her, put his hands on her hips, and tries to drag her back into the meeting room. She shouts, Crispin, no! And when she emerges into the hallway, she bumps into a senior male employee. And she's convinced he was within earshot. And he says absolutely nothing.
There are definitely questions to be asked about what senior figures at Odey Asset Management knew or didn't know. They probably had a financial interest in maintaining the status quo.
Everybody knew what was happening. Everybody knew about his behaviour. One day, I was forced to go to lunch at The Gavroche with Odey. I was told that I had to go and that I didn't have a choice. It had been in the calendar for some time. And I couldn't say no to him.
When I realised that I had no choice, I asked if I could bring along the other receptionist to accompany me. I didn't feel safe. And I did not want to be alone with this man.
Odey was not happy with me for inviting this other receptionist along. He said that I should direct any conversation to him and that I had no social skills, because I spoke to somebody other than him. He continued to say things like I would never be able to eat at a restaurant like that if I wasn't with him, that he has all the money and the power, that he is the boss. And my poor social skills were why I was just a receptionist.
So going to the restaurant was the final straw because it added another level for me to be told that because of money and power and status that I could be treated however he liked. When we returned from I remember being in such shock that I sat at my desk. And every person that came down from that trading floor would make some jibe or joke about my lunch and what did I do to annoy him.
Odey has come back really angry. I have no social skills, making complete fun out of this situation. And that, for me, was just as bad.
There are lots of people in senior positions at the firm who absolutely knew what women said he was doing to them.
Those who worked alongside him protected him. That makes them complicit in this.
He had enormous power, enormous power as its owner and founder. His partners were not always comfortable challenging him. He really held people's fortunes in his hands, so the effect of that enormous power in the company was to create a culture of secrecy and silence.
Odey and Odey Asset Management completely got away with hiding what had happened. They didn't acknowledge. They never apologised. They didn't care. It was more about silencing me so that it didn't get out.
We published on a Thursday.
The fallout from the investigation was both rapid and immediate. It's been one of the quickest and most decisive unravelings of a hedge fund that I can remember. It was published early morning on the 8th of June. By early afternoon that day, Morgan Stanley, which is one of Odey Asset Management's key prime brokers, had moved to sever ties with the firm. Prime brokers are crucial for hedge funds to go about their business because they offer services like stock lending, leverage, trade execution.
When Morgan Stanley cut ties it then became untenable for Odey Asset Management's other relationships not to go the same way. Other firms fearing the reputational fallout began reviewing and terminating their relationship. The French brokerage, Exane, Goldman Sachs followed. Schroders said they were pulling their remaining investments from the firm.
We also revealed that the UK financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, was widening its investigation into Odey. He and his firm became a toxic asset within the City of London.
Crucially, it really worries Odey Asset Management's clients, who know that without those banks the company simply can't do business.
On the weekend, then, there was another big bombshell. The partners at Odey Asset Management said that they were going to remove Crispin Odey as a member. He suggested to the FT that this is something he would fight.
I put in a call to Crispin, and he gave his very Crispin-like response. How are they going to do that? You've got to have a willing buyer, willing seller, but then hung up.
At the same time you had clients of Odey Asset Management putting in redemption requests, so asking to withdraw their money.
They decided to shutter the Odey Swan Fund, blocking redemptions from a number of funds, just something you only really see in quite distressed situations.
Then there was another milestone of when JPMorgan, which was the prime broker but also the custodian that safeguards Odey Asset Management's assets, also began terminating their relationship. And this was crucial because having a custodian is a regulatory necessity.
On the Wednesday after our story broke, the Treasury select committee of MPs wrote to the UK's financial watchdog, demanding to know what action it had taken with respect to Crispin Odey. Also on the Wednesday, UBS said it was going to sever its ties with the firm.
On the Thursday, which was exactly a week after our report first published, the company announced that it was looking to break up.
The company is now in the process of transferring some of its funds and its fund managers to other asset management companies, in effect dismantling one of Britain's oldest asset management companies.
I think it's probably closer to a war room than a company at the moment. And how that company can go on existing without Crispin is very hard to see.
Things are looking quite bleak for the firm. Too many institutions have cut ties, and I don't see them rushing back any time soon.
Odey was able to get away with this behaviour for decades. I think it speaks to a wider point across many different industries about money and power and how people think they are untouchable.
It wasn't the company in the end. It wasn't the courts. It wasn't the police. It wasn't the regulator. It was a bunch of journalists.
We have finally held someone to account, and that's benefited the lives of many women who have been quite seriously harmed by this guy. The impact he's had on them has lasted decades, in some cases.
These women weren't listened to. And so it has affected me, and it has affected the way I think about everything - the system, about where we stand, and how much we can trust, and how we can be protected.
Because I now have daughters, and I don't want either of them to have to go through what I did. And I wanted to contribute to positive change, to highlighting systems that enable and normalise this behaviour... because change is needed.
He isn't just a man who allegedly harassed and abused women over many years. He's a man that evaded the scrutiny of the regulator, the police.
The FCA cannot just sit and turn a blind eye or pretend, in fact, that they are doing a good investigation when they are simply not. They need to take these things more seriously, and they need to act more promptly. The fact that we are scared to go to the police because we aren't going to be believed or listened to is terrible. Something really serious needs to change so sexual assault, wherever it occurred, is handled.
We do know that Crispin threatened judicial action against the FCA if it continued to pursue the sexual misconduct line of inquiry. So it's possible they were intimidated by him.
Why we're able to go through a list of former female employees and find them and contact them and get some of them to talk to us and the FCA can't is not clear to me.
Odey's performance has been incredibly volatile. He's had some amazing years but often on a much smaller asset base. And there are investors who've lost a lot of money with him. I think it speaks to a wider point about the business model of the hedge fund industry, which appears to be a heads, I win, tails you lose. He's still got 600mn of his own money in the funds.
It doesn't feel like a complete sense of justice.
We've watched his company crumble and disintegrate, hopefully. I feel that is the right thing, but it wasn't the company that assaulted the women. They may have aided and abetted him. He is the one who groped us. He is the one who needs to be held to account.
I think the huge number of women in our story did help it to really hit home. But it is depressing that it takes that number of women. I feel enormously frustrated for the women who came first.
There is power in numbers, but it's really telling of how far we have to go when we only listen to a collective voice because my voice should have been enough 20 years ago, as should of many other voices.
I don't think it's that women weren't believed. The vast majority of people knew what Odey was like. I don't think they necessarily knew the extremes of it or the lengths that he went to. The women are heard, but they're just ignored.
The fallout since the FT investigation is something that I never imagined could ever happen. It really highlights how many more people, including Odey, need to be held accountable and what we need to do to create systems that protect women.
I am the mother of girls. This behaviour needs to be stopped. I don't want my children, my daughters, going into a workplace and having to be subjected to what he subjected so many of us to, so many of us.