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Meet the hedge fund with the unluckiest name: OWS

November 21, 2011: 12:24 PM ET

What do Lehman Brothers, Italy's biggest bank, and a hedge fund called OWS have in common?

By Leigh Gallagher, assistant managing editor

OWSFORTUNE -- I had my head buried in the newspaper as usual on the subway this morning, reading about Occupy Wall Street when I looked up and saw a man in front of me wearing a navy blue fleece with an "OWS" logo on it. Having just been reading the news, and having spent much of Sunday surfing the web for Occupy Wall Street t-shirts and mugs for a birthday gift for my father—a lifelong champion of the 99%—my first thought was that I wish I had known about the fleeces, it would have made a much nicer gift. But then I looked a little more closely and saw that it wasn't an Occupy fleece, but one that read "OWS Capital Management." A few passengers looked at me when I laughed out loud. Many have noted how the Occupy movement is not only a major news event but a linguistic event too, forever changing the meaning of the word "occupy." But the irony of a money management firm named OWS was just too much.

When I got to the office, I did a little investigating. It turns out, OWS is One William Street Capital Management, a hedge fund with just under $3 billion in assets under management—and lineage that might be particularly low-hanging fruit for the Occupiers. OWS was founded by David Sherr, a former Lehman managing director and global head of the firm's securitization business, who left in March 2008 to start OWS to trade asset-backed securities. The team is largely made up of former Lehman people; One William Street is not where the firm is located—Sherr and his team of 50 are in midtown—but the address of the original Lehman Brothers headquarters, where it was based from 1928 to 1980.

A spokesperson for One William Street was not entirely surprised when I told her why I was calling. She acknowledged that yes, the firm's name has been joked about in recent weeks; some clients, she said, have suggested in jest that maybe Sherr could sell it.

After we hung up I was about to go back to other business at hand when I wondered just who is, well, occupying One William Street these days. The building's current owner? Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy's largest bank.

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Leigh Gallagher
Leigh Gallagher

Leigh Gallagher is an assistant managing editor at Fortune, author of The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving, and writes about cities, suburbs and how we live. Follow her on Twitter at @leighgallagher.

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