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Posts Tagged ‘due diligence’

Report Indicates 1 in 5 Hedge Funds Have Lied or Misrepresented

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 16th, 2009 3:16 PM |

Trust but verify.

How does one verify representations for an industry that has traditionally been anything but transparent? Serious due diligence. Why should individuals be extremely cautious prior to investing in a hedge fund? The lack of transparency and the challenge of being able to employ real due diligence.

To that end, the hedge fund industry has largely operated on a trust basis and marketing which employs a lot of ‘word of mouth’ introductions. Against that backdrop, this corner of the investing universe is exceptionally challenging.

Without the ability to truly verify assertions made and returns generated by hedge funds, investors in hedge funds allocate capital with greater risk. In spite of these risks, the hedge fund industry has amazingly been able to operate under a fee structure in which investors annually pay 2% of assets and 20% of profits.

I know plenty of individuals who work at hedge funds. As with any undertaking, it would be irresponsible of me or anybody to impugn an entire industry. That said, I have always thought the lack of transparency and lack in the ability to truly verify investing styles and returns as being a significant reason not to invest.

From that standpoint, I was particularly interested to review a research report, Trust and Delegation, recently released by a number of graduate professors in finance:

Stephen Brown is the David S. Loeb Professor of Finance at New York University Stern School of Business; William Goetzmann is the Edwin J. Beinecke Professor of Finance and Management, Yale School of Management; Bing Liang is Professor of Finance, Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts; Christopher Schwarz is Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of California at Irvine. We thank Bob Krause, Hossein Kazemi, and Andrew Lo for helpful comments. We are grateful to HedgeFundDueDiligence.com for providing their data for this research (http://www.hedgefundduediligence.com/).

What did this extensive research report highlight?

Due to imperfect transparency and costly auditing, trust is an essential component of financial intermediation. In this paper we study a comprehensive sample of due diligence reports from a major hedge fund due diligence firm. A routine feature of due diligence is an assessment of integrity. We find that misrepresentation about past legal and regulatory problems is frequent (21%), as is incorrect or unverifiable representations about other topics (28%). Misrepresentation, the failure to use a major auditing firm and the use of internal pricing are significantly related to legal and regulatory problems, indices of operational risk. Due diligence (DD) reports are costly and are only performed when a fund is seriously considered for investment. It is important to control for this conditioning which would otherwise bias cross-sectional analysis. We find that DD reports are typically issued on high return funds three months after the historical performance has peaked. DD reports are also issued at the point of highest cash flow into the fund. This pattern is consistent with return chasing behavior by institutional hedge fund investors.

Wow. Misrepresentations have occurred in 21% to 28% of the hundreds of hedge funds studied.

Honestly, I am not surprised. If hedge fund managers lie about one part of their business, do you think it is all that difficult to lie and misrepresent returns, investment valuations, and other critical parts of their business?

The inability to verify returns is always an opportunity for a hedge fund manager to fudge those returns when the numbers are not good.

This report may not be surprising, but it is enlightening. For those who would like a deeper view into this corner of our financial landscape, please click on the report below.   ~LD

Poll Indicates Investing Has Declined Significantly

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 15th, 2009 3:56 PM |

Have you given up on the market? Do you not trust the financial industry? Have you stuffed your money under the mattress? To an ever increasing extent, more and more Americans have become more risk averse when it comes to investing.

Alix Partners, a consulting firm, produced Half of Americans Have Stopped or Reduced Investing and a Quarter Don’t Intend To Invest for at Least Three Years:

Americans will be investing significantly less in the future, according to a new survey released today by AlixPartners LLP, the global business advisory firm, indicating that the financial crisis is likely to have a significant impact on investor behavior over the next several years.

While the U.S. financial services industry is slowly recovering from its biggest losses in decades, investor confidence appears to be recuperating tepidly at best.  A staggering 49% of people surveyed who identified themselves as “previous investors” reported either having stopped or reduced investing in stocks or mutual funds and 26% said they had no intention of investing in these bedrock financial vehicles in the next three years. The survey also found that among higher-income households, those earning more than $75,000 per annum, 21% of previous investors reported having stopped investing altogether in stocks or mutual funds.  These results could point to a significant structural contraction in the market for financial services firms and financial advisors, while also suggesting that financial companies should be thinking about how to better focus their marketing dollars in today’s uncertain market.

“Investors who had placed their trust in the investment industry are cross, cautious and confused,” observed Clarence Hahn, AlixPartners’ Financial Services Improvement practice co-lead.   “And while the collective loss of wealth in the past year has had a deep impact psychologically as well as financially, the irony is that the lost wealth can only be rebuilt through participation in the markets.  Financial-advisory firms therefore have two key challenges:  to figure out who really is going to start investing again; and to win back trust by building into their offerings a level of oversight, due diligence and risk management that will eradicate the possibility of similar meltdowns in the future.”

While brokers and financial planners will need to figure out how to reengage with a client base that was often ill-served, I strongly believe individuals will need to assume a greater degree of the burden to truly understand the art of investing. What does that art entail?  Let’s start with the following:

1. Learn about risk: how to measure risk, how to identify risk, what are the risks in different investments.

2. Learn about the values of diversity across asset classes and regions.

3. Learn about the impact of policy implemented in Washington and the influence it has on Wall Street specifically and finance and investing in general.

4. Learn about the differences in fundamentals and technicals.

How do you start to undertake the above four steps?

5. Read Sense on Cents.

Don’t necessarily give up on investing. Get started on educating yourself.

LD






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