Michael J. Burry (born June 19, 1971) is an American physician and hedge fund manager. He was the founder of the hedge fund Scion Capital LLC, which he ran from 2000 until 2008, and then closed to focus on his own personal investments. Burry was one of the first investors to recognize and invest in the impending subprime mortgage crisis.
Burry was born in 1971 and attended Santa Teresa High School in San Jose, California. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for his undergraduate education in economics and pre-med studies. He graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and did his residency in neurology at Stanford Hospital and Clinics. While off duty at night, he worked on his hobby, financial investing. On one occasion, Burry had been working so hard studying both for medical school and his personal financial interests that he fell asleep standing up during a complicated surgery and crashed into the oxygen tent that had been built around the patient. As a result, he was thrown out of the operating room by the lead surgeon.
Burry left work as a Stanford Hospital neurology resident to start his own hedge fund. He had already developed a reputation as an investor by demonstrating astounding success in "value investing," which he wrote about on message boards on the stock discussion site Silicon Investor beginning in 1996. He was so successful with his stock picks that he attracted the interest of such companies asVanguard, White Mountains Insurance Group and such prominent investors as Joel Greenblatt.
After shutting down his website in November 2000, Burry started Scion Capital, funded by a small inheritance and loans from his family. The company was named after The Scions of Shannara, a favorite childhood book. Burry quickly earned extraordinary profits for his investors. According to the author Michael Lewis, "in his first full year, 2001, the S&P 500 fell 11.88 percent. Scion was up 55 percent. The next year, the S&P 500 fell again, by 22.1 percent, and yet Scion was up again: 16 percent. The next year, 2003, the stock market finally turned around and rose 28.69 percent, but Mike Burry beat it again—his investments rose by 50 percent. By the end of 2004, Mike Burry was managing $600 million and turning money away."
In 2005, Burry started to focus on the subprime market. Through his analysis of mortgage lending practices in 2003 and 2004, he correctly forecasted the real estate bubble would collapse as early as 2007. Burry's research on the values of residential real estate convinced him that subprime mortgages, especially those with "teaser" rates, and the bonds based on these mortgages would begin losing value when the original rates reset, often in as little as two years after initiation. This conclusion led Burry to short the market by persuading Goldman Sachs to sell him credit default swaps against subprime deals he saw as vulnerable. This analysis proved correct, and Burry profited accordingly. Burry has since said, "I don't go out looking for good shorts. I'm spending my time looking for good longs. I shorted mortgages because I had to. Every bit of logic I had led me to this trade and I had to do it."
Though he suffered an investor revolt before his predictions came true, Burry earned a personal profit of $100 million and a profit for his remaining investors of more than $700 million. Scion Capital ultimately recorded returns of 489.34 percent (net of fees and expenses) between its November 1, 2000 inception and June 2008. The S&P 500 returned just under three percent including dividends over the same period.
According to his website, Burry liquidated his credit default swap short positions by April 2008 and did not benefit from the taxpayer-funded bailouts of 2008 and 2009. He subsequently liquidated his company to focus on his personal investment portfolio.
In an April 3, 2010, op-ed for the The New York Times, Burry argued that anyone who studied the financial markets carefully in 2003, 2004, and 2005 could have recognized the growing risk in the subprime markets. He faulted federal regulators for failing to listen to warnings from outside a closed circle of advisors.