Tepper, Icahn, Cohen Top Hedge Fund Earners in 2012

Forbes’ annual list of the 40 highest-earning hedge fund managers and traders is out, and David Tepper took the top spot. Tepper’s hedge fund, Appaloosa Management, had net returns of almost 30 percent during 2012 and Tepper’s share was $2.2 billion.

Tepper, Icahn, Cohen Top Hedge Fund Earners in 2012

David Tepper’s achievements last year are especially significant because the average hedge fund underperformed the stock market in the U.S. during the year.

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When you compare the highest earner list with the lowest earner list, Forbes said the 40 top earners for the year raked in $16.7 billion total last year, while the lowest earning managers only brought in about $90 million among them.

In second place was Carl Icahn of Icahn Capital. As an activist investor, he’s made waves on numerous occasions, like when he waded into the great debate over Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF). Icahn’s fund enjoyed 28 percent returns last year after he made bets on CVR Energy, Inc. (NYSE:CVI) and The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAIN).

SAC Capital’s Steven Cohen took the third spot with $1.3 billion in earnings, and his fund brought in a 13 percent net return. Cohen’s fund has been the center of controversy for some time as at least one employee has been implicated in insider trading allegations. Just last month a government informant floated a second name past investigators looking into the firm.

James Simons from Renaissance Technologies Corp. tied Cohen for third place with $1.3 billion in earnings, even though he officially retired in 2010.

George Soros of Soros Fund Management raked in $1.1 billion last year, while Ken Griffin from Citadel brought in $900 million. Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates earned $800 million last year, while David Shaw earned $625 million. Omega Advisors’ Leon Cooperman and Third Point’s Dan Loeb round out the top 10 on Forbes’ list of highest earning hedge fund managers of 2012.

Like Carl Icahn, Dan Loeb also took a position on the heated Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) controversy, which began with Bill Ackman’s very public short of the stock. Loeb went long on the stock. Bill Ackman placed a little further down on the list, although he still landed within the top 40 highest earners. The Pershing Square manager earned $300 million last year.

David Einhorn has been making press lately in his public debate with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) over the issuance of preferred stock. He won his case against Apple over the bundling of shareholder proposals, although the tech giant faces few repercussions from that suit.

According to Forbes, David Einhorn was the 25th highest earning hedge fund manager in 2012 with $150 million in earnings.

Baupost Group’s Seth Klarman took the 30th spot on Forbes’ list. His firm started off 2013 strong with a nice $1.5 billion settlement after its investment in Lehman Brothers debt.