(Bloomberg) -- Michael Burry, the doctor-turned-investor who famously bet against mortgage securities before the 2008 financial crisis, has taken to Twitter with a controversial message: lockdowns intended to contain the coronavirus pandemic are worse than the disease itself.
Government-directed shutdowns in the U.S., which led to millions of job losses and may trigger one of the country’s deepest-ever economic contractions, aren’t necessary to contain the epidemic and have disproportionately hurt low-income families and minorities, Burry argued in a series of tweets over the past two weeks. He also said some controversial treatments for Covid-19, such as the malaria drug hydroxycloroquine, should be made more widely available.
Burry earned his M.D. at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, but decided to become a professional investor after making hugely profitable bets in the stock market. He shot to fame after his hedge fund’s bearish mortgage wagers were chronicled in “The Big Short,” an Oscar-winning movie based on the best-selling book by Michael Lewis.
Although Burry has mostly kept a low profile since then, he started sharing his views more widely last year to warn of a central-bank fueled “bubble” in passive investment products. He’s now focusing on the outbreak that has shuttered economies, killed almost 75,000 people worldwide and changed how millions of people live and work.
Burry, whose utterances are closely watched by the financial community, began tweeting on March 23, describing his handle as the “real personal account of the real weird one from the book and movie, etc.” He said he began speaking out because of how people were suffering from measures taken to contain the pandemic. “Unconscionable,” is how he described job losses in the U.S., which have caused a once-unthinkable 10 million people to apply for unemployment benefits in the past two weeks. He confirmed the authenticity of his tweets in an email interview with BNN Bloomberg.
Burry has taken on medical policymakers in tweets regarding the illness itself, saying coronavirus infections can be managed through common-sense measures like increased hand-washing and broader testing, without forcing everyone to stay at home. He’s also advocating for wider use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat those who are infected. U.S. President Donald Trump has called the latter drug a “game changer” in the fight against Covid-19, but critics in the scientific community have urged caution, saying it isn’t fully tested or approved.
On Sunday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said there had been some accounts that hydroxychloroquine was helping. “We feel a little bit better regarding its safety than we do about a completely novel drug, even though this is being used at much higher dosages,” he said.
Burry has so far refrained from tweeting about his investments. He told Bloomberg News last month that he placed a “significant bearish market bet that is working out for now,” without providing details except to say it was a trade of a “good size” against indexes. He said the pandemic could unwind the passive investment boom, which he has compared to purchases of collateralized debt obligations that fueled the pre-2008 mortgage bubble.
While Burry has been mostly critical of the economic and medical measures taken by authorities across the globe, he has also highlighted large economies that haven’t seen as much turmoil as the U.S. and Britain. Germany and Japan have been more measured in their responses and offer a model for the rest of the world, Burry said. In a tweet on March 25, he issued his own prescription for Americans to overcome the crisis:
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