Welcome to the Hedge Fund Maelstrom

While Bear Stearns (NYSE: BSC  ) may have been the one to tap the keg at the hedge fund liquidation party, it certainly isn't the only one in attendance.

As the volatility of the credit markets continues to increase, more hedge funds are starting to come out of the woodwork claiming big losses on the year. Some have taken bad enough losses that there is talk of closing out funds.

On Thursday, fears were sparked early on when France's largest bank, BNP Paribas, froze investors from making redemptions on three of its funds. The action was taken because the bank claimed that -- amid heavy recent losses -- it is currently unable to value some of its holdings due to the complete dry-up of liquidity in the market.

Throughout the day, other stories of woes in the investment management world leaked out. The biggest news of the day was that superpower investment bank Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) has taken a beating in its North American Opportunities hedge fund. Whispers abound that the firm is unsure of the fund's future.

Potentially even more disturbing for Goldman and the market, though, is talk that Goldman's largest hedge fund, the $9 billion Global Alpha fund, is also down big and has its hiney to the flames (as you might say). Though the talk about Global Alpha is mostly gossip and rumor at this point, it's no secret that the fund hadn't been doing all that well even before broad market turmoil recently came into play. Goldman finished the day down 5.7%, and Bear, coming off two days of recovery, dropped back 5.8%.

So what's next?
The problem here is that the whole scene could become one huge prisoner's dilemma. If everyone involved were able to stay calm and accept that losses may be inevitable, a reasonable outcome could be possible. But as more hedge funds -- prompted by investors' redemption calls -- run for the doors to try to preserve what value they have left, they are likely to further tank prices, scare buyers out of the market, and create more uncertainty and redemption calls.

So who's next?
That might be a more reasonable question. Since it tends to be very tight-lipped about what goes on inside the Goldman machine, it's questionable what, if any, updates we will hear about Goldman's hedge funds. Meanwhile, other investment banks that have hedge fund operations, such as Lehman Brothers (NYSE: LEH  ) , Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS  ) , and JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM  ) , could end up in headlines of their own.

More financial Foolishness:

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Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy has never once been caught with its pants down. Of course, it doesn't actually wear pants ...


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