Tag Archives: hedge fund offering documents

SEC Action Against Hedge Fund Manager for Marketing Misrepresentations

SEC v. Andrey C. Hicks and Locust Offshore Management, LLC

Marketing, of course, is an issue close to the heart of every hedge fund manager. You spend so much time and effort making your pitchbook and other materials exactly right in terms of strategy, investment process and all the details that help you make the most of your investor meetings. It needs to look great; it needs to tell your story, and as the SEC recently reminded us, it needs to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Overview of Case

On October 26, 2011, the SEC filed an action in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts against Andrey C. Hicks (“Hicks”) and Locust Offshore Management, LLC (“LOM”). Hicks and LOM purported to manage a British Virgin Islands-based investment vehicle named Locust Offshore Fund, Ltd. (the “Fund” and collectively with Hicks and LOM, “Locust”), which employed a strategy based on a quantitative model developed by Hicks. The SEC alleged that the Fund was in fact part of a fraudulent scheme that ultimately funneled incoming subscriptions into Hicks’ personal accounts.

According to the complaint (see SEC v. Hicks & Locust),  the scheme depended on a number of misrepresentations found in LOM’s website, the Fund’s offering memorandum, Hicks’ email correspondence, Hicks’ verbal statements to at least one investor, post-subscription correspondence with investors.

The SEC asserted causes of action under Section 17(a) of the Securities Act (fraudulent interstate transactions), Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and related rules (prohibiting the use of manipulative and deceptive devices); Section 206(4) of the Advisers Act (prohibiting act, practice or course of business that is fraudulent, deceptive or manipulative), and for equitable relief.

The District Court issued a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against Locust.

Takeaways for Managers

The alleged misrepresentations included the following:

  • Statements that the Fund was formed and registered as a professional fund in the British Virgin Islands, when in fact no such entity had existed or been registered there;
  • Flowing from the above, any statement identifying Hicks as the portfolio manager, director, or other principal of the Fund or LOM, as well as any statement that LOM was the manager of the Fund;
  • Identifying Ernst & Young as the auditor of the Fund, and Credit Suisse as the Fund’s prime broker, when in fact neither company had ever been retained to provide services to the Fund;
  • Statements that the 27 year old Hicks held an undergraduate degree and doctorate degree in applied mathematics from Harvard, when in fact he had only attended three semesters as an undergraduate, and was forced to withdraw due to repeated failure to meet academic standards. Hicks received a D minus in the only math course he took;
  • Statements that Hicks managed a book of futures, options and foreign exchange investments at Barclays, and grew his book nearly two-fold during his brief tenure, when in fact he had never been employed at Barclays; and
  • Assurances to at least one investor that his subscription monies had been received and were “entered into live trading,” and similar statements.

The first investor in the Fund, referred to as Investor A, met Hicks on an airplane and the two fell into conversation. The above statements, found in the offering documents, on the website and in other materials, were reinforced during their conversation. Hicks talked about his education and professional experience, showed Investor A LOM’s website on his Blackberry, and the two parted, exchanging their business cards. The chance meeting and follow-up emails were evidently persuasive; Investor A wired his subscription monies about a month later.

This action highlights several points for managers:

  • Do not lie in your marketing materials; in biographies especially, take care to avoid statements that exaggerate education, qualifications, experience and expertise;
  • Carefully check all facts, even basic data such as service provider information and fund formation details in all areas where they appear (not merely obvious places like your fund offering documents, but any presentations, pitchbooks, websites or other materials);
  • Maintain files of backup materials to document every factual statement made in your offering documents, marketing materials and on your website;
  • The anti-fraud provisions of the securities laws have a long reach and managers should be careful about all communications, not just in their marketing materials. Evaluate letterhead, business cards, email signatures and speak with all employees, but especially those involved in marketing, regarding appropriate parameters for meetings (planned or chance) with potential investors.


Although Hicks is an extreme example, all managers should ensure that their funds’ offering documents marketing materials, stationery, written correspondence, and verbal statements are accurate, including with respect to service provider information, fund formation details, and biographies. To the extent that managers provide such information on their websites, all of these details should be confirmed as accurate on the website itself, and in any linked or uploaded materials.

We recommend that your attorney, in-house counsel or compliance consultant review all marketing materials prior to distributing them, and retaining these materials and backup information in your files.

For more information please see the complaint above of the SEC litigation release.


Cole-Frieman & Mallon is a boutique hedge fund law firm which provides fund formation, business and compliance services to fund managers.  Bart Mallon can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

Hedge Fund Records

Access to Records under the Delaware Uniform Limited Partnership Act

A vast majority of hedge funds are structured as limited partnerships under the Delaware Uniform Limited Partnership Act (the DULPA).  The code is very flexible and allows the limited partnership agreement (LPA) to be drafted in a very manager-friendly manner. To the extent that a LPA is silent on an issue covered by the DULPA, the DULPA will control.

With regard to the record keeping requirement of hedge funds, many funds will include a default provision in the LPA which provides investors access to the records of the hedge fund upon reasonable notice to the general partner of the fund.  The records that the investors will have access to are listed in Section 17-305 of the DULPA, which I have reprinted below.  The requirements are fairly standard items which and should not pose an inconvenience to the general partner.

However, managers should note that by defaulting to the DULPA the manager may actually be providing investors in the fund with the potential right to access the name and contact information for other investors in the fund.  DULPA Section 17-305(a)(3) provides,

Each limited partner has the right, subject to such reasonable standards … to obtain from the general partners from time to time upon reasonable demand for any purpose reasonably related to the limited partner’s interest as a limited partner a current list of the name and last known business, residence or mailing address of each partner.

Of course, under this section the investor making such a request would need to show that the request was made a purpose reasonably related to such investors interest in the fund.  The manager would obviously be able to deny such a request if the investor did not present a good reason for the request.  The general partner would also have other potential remedies under Section 17-305(b) and Section 17-305(e).  The hedge fund offering documents could also be revised so as to restrict investors from having this right.

The full text of the section is reprinted below and can be found here.


§ 17-305. Access to and confidentiality of information; records.

(a) Each limited partner has the right, subject to such reasonable standards (including standards governing what information and documents are to be furnished, at what time and location and at whose expense) as may be set forth in the partnership agreement or otherwise established by the general partners, to obtain from the general partners from time to time upon reasonable demand for any purpose reasonably related to the limited partner’s interest as a limited partner:

(1) True and full information regarding the status of the business and financial condition of the limited partnership;

(2) Promptly after becoming available, a copy of the limited partnership’s federal, state and local income tax returns for each year;

(3) A current list of the name and last known business, residence or mailing address of each partner;

(4) A copy of any written partnership agreement and certificate of limited partnership and all amendments thereto, together with executed copies of any written powers of attorney pursuant to which the partnership agreement and any certificate and all amendments thereto have been executed;

(5) True and full information regarding the amount of cash and a description and statement of the agreed value of any other property or services contributed by each partner and which each partner has agreed to contribute in the future, and the date on which each became a partner; and

(6) Other information regarding the affairs of the limited partnership as is just and reasonable.

(b) A general partner shall have the right to keep confidential from limited partners for such period of time as the general partner deems reasonable, any information which the general partner reasonably believes to be in the nature of trade secrets or other information the disclosure of which the general partner in good faith believes is not in the best interest of the limited partnership or could damage the limited partnership or its business or which the limited partnership is required by law or by agreement with a third party to keep confidential.

(c) A limited partnership may maintain its records in other than a written form if such form is capable of conversion into written form within a reasonable time.

(d) Any demand under this section shall be in writing and shall state the purpose of such demand.

(e) Any action to enforce any right arising under this section shall be brought in the Court of Chancery. If a general partner refuses to permit a limited partner to obtain from the general partner the information described in subsection (a)(3) of this section or does not reply to the demand that has been made within 5 business days after the demand has been made, the limited partner may apply to the Court of Chancery for an order to compel such disclosure. The Court of Chancery is hereby vested with exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether or not the person seeking such information is entitled to the information sought. The Court of Chancery may summarily order the general partner to permit the limited partner to obtain the information described in subsection (a)(3) of this section and to make copies or abstracts therefrom, or the Court of Chancery may summarily order the general partner to furnish to the limited partner the information described in subsection (a)(3) of this section on the condition that the limited partner first pay to the limited partnership the reasonable cost of obtaining and furnishing such information and on such other conditions as the Court of Chancery deems appropriate. When a limited partner seeks to obtain the information described in subsection (a)(3) of this section, the limited partner shall first establish (1) that the limited partner has complied with the provisions of this section respecting the form and manner of making demand for obtaining such information, and (2) that the information the limited partner seeks is reasonably related to the limited partner’s interest as a limited partner. The Court of Chancery may, in its discretion, prescribe any limitations or conditions with reference to the obtaining of information, or award such other or further relief as the Court of Chancery may deem just and proper. The Court of Chancery may order books, documents and records, pertinent extracts therefrom, or duly authenticated copies thereof, to be brought within the State of Delaware and kept in the State of Delaware upon such terms and conditions as the order may prescribe.

(f) The rights of a limited partner to obtain information as provided in this section may be restricted in an original partnership agreement or in any subsequent amendment approved or adopted by all of the partners and in compliance with any applicable requirements of the partnership agreement. The provisions of this subsection shall not be construed to limit the ability to impose restrictions on the rights of a limited partner to obtain information by any other means permitted under this section.


Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to  learn how to start a hedge fund.  Other related hedge fund law articles include:

MFA Releases Sound Practices Guide for Hedge Funds

Guide Focuses on Hedge Fund Risk Management and Other Operational Issues

Unfortunately the new world of hedge fund investing and hedge fund due diligence has become more complicated and hedge fund management companies now need to increase their focus on operational and business issues.  While many managers are happy to attend to their trading strategies and risk management procedures, the managers who will be able to grow their AUM most successfully in the coming years are those managers who focus on many of the business and operational issues which investors are now wholly concerned with.  The updated 2009 Sound Practices guide by the Managed Funds Association (press release below) provides an outline of the major issues which managers should address with respect to their businesses.

Overview of Sound Practices Guide

The Sound Practices guide is similar to the President’s Working Group report Hedge Fund Best Practices, but also includes more information for managers.  I skimmed through the Sound Practices guide (it is 277 pages) and found that much of the information is extremely useful.  One of the overarching themes of the guide is that it does not ask managers to take the “one size fits all” approach, but asks managers to individually assess whether or not a certain practice is appropriate for their particular business.

I found the section dealing with the disclosures and hedge fund offering documents particular good.  As a reminder to hedge fund managers, offering documents should be updated at least annually, or more frequently if there are material changes in the fund’s investment program, structure or management company.  Additionally, any changes to offering documents should be communicated to all existing investors (either by sending out a new PPM or through another type of disclosure).

Other sections I was particularly interested in were: (i) the section dealing with investor letters and communications, (ii) side letters and parallel separately managed accounts (which are becoming more popular), (iii) valuation and policies, (iv) risk management, (v) due diligence, (vi) AML.  A due diligence guide for hedge fund investors was also included, but I felt like this was a pretty weak DD questionnaire – managers are likely to receive much more detailed requests for information.

Recommendation for Hedge Fund Managers

I recommend that hedge fund managers who are immediately seeking capital from institutions and high net worth investors read through this Sound Practices guide and take notes.  Managers should reach each practice and asses whether it applies to their fund operations and, if so, how such a practice should be implemented.  Managers may want to highlight certain items and ask their attorney what they should do.  These sound practices will help managers to create strong businesses which are able to grow over the long run.



Managed Funds Association Takes Steps to Restore Investor Confidence with Enhanced Best Practices & Investor Due Diligence Recommendations

WASHINGTON, Mar 31, 2009 — Managed Funds Association (MFA) today took steps to restore investor confidence in the markets with the release of its newly enhanced Sound Practices for Hedge Fund Managers, including a due diligence questionnaire for investors to use as they consider whom to trust with their investments.

The 2009 edition of Sound Practices, MFA’s fifth version of its pioneering guidance that was first published in 2000, incorporates the recommendations provided in the final President’s Working Group’s (PWG) Best Practices for the Hedge Fund Industry Report of the Asset Managers’ Committee plus additional guidance that goes above and beyond the scope of those recommendations.

Richard H. Baker, MFA President and CEO, said, “The hedge fund industry has a strong role in helping to restore financial stability and investor confidence, and to hasten economic recovery. While policy makers consider sweeping regulatory reforms in the U.S. and abroad, and economic leaders gather for the G-20 in London, on April 2, the hedge fund industry is taking steps to restore investor trust through the promotion of sound business practices and tools for investors to use as they conduct ongoing due diligence of money managers.”

Sound Practices is the cornerstone of the Association’s initiative to collaborate with international organizations with the goal of establishing uniform global principles and guidance. MFA, the PWG Asset Managers’ Committee and the Alternative Investment Management Association (AIMA) have committed to providing the Financial Stability Forum (FSF) with a set of unified principles of best practices before April 30, 2009.

“The hedge fund industry recognizes its responsibilities as liquidity providers and risk dispersers in the markets, and continues to take the lead in its approach to disclosure and investor protection as well as active market disciplines such as risk management and valuation which contribute to market soundness and investor protection. This latest edition of MFA’s seminal Sound Practices concludes many months of diligent work by leading hedge fund managers, service providers and MFA staff to provide updates and revisions for voluntary adoption by hedge fund managers.

“MFA has a decade-long tradition of robust Sound Practices. Today, more than ever before, investors will benefit from our due diligence questionnaire as they undertake robust diligence when considering an investment in a hedge fund. Investors can also benefit from reviewing the recommendations in Sound Practices as they consider operational, governance and other matters as part of their diligence when making an investment.” added Baker.

The 2009 edition of Sound Practices provides comprehensive updates in every area of guidance including recommendations for disclosure and responsibilities to investors; valuation policies and procedures; risk management; trading and business operations; compliance, conflicts of interest, and business practices; anti-money laundering; and business continuity and disaster recovery practices.

Major Revisions

Sound Practices is a dynamic blueprint written by the industry, for the industry, to provide peer-to-peer guidance to:

  • Strengthen business practices of the hedge fund industry through a strong framework of internal policies and practices;
  • Encourage individualized assessment and application of recommendations on one size does not fit all; and
  • Enhance market discipline in the global financial marketplace.

The revised edition includes substantially updated and expanded guidance in seven areas:

  • Disclosure and Investor Protection: Establishes practices intended to assist a hedge fund in fulfilling its responsibilities to its investors;
  • Valuation: Establishes a framework, governance and policies and procedures for valuations of assets;
  • Risk Management: Establishes an overall approach to risk monitoring, measurement and management. Also describes types of risk and recommendations on management thereof;
  • Trading and Business Operations: Establishes policies and procedures for management of trading operations including relationships with counterparties, use of service providers, accounting, technology, best execution and soft dollar arrangements;
  • Compliance, Conflicts and Business Practices: Establishes guidance for the adoption of a culture of compliance including a code of ethics, compliance manual, record keeping, conflicts of interest, training/education of personnel and more;
  • Anti-Money Laundering: Updates MFA’s seminal AML guidance; and
  • Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery: Establishes general principles, contingency planning, crisis management and disaster recovery.

Baker noted that, “Ultimately, each hedge fund manager must determine whether and how to tailor these Sound Practices to its individual business. We believe that the strong business practices in Sound Practices are an important complement to a smart regulatory framework and that strong business practices and robust investor diligence are critical to addressing investor protection concerns.”

For a copy of Sound Practices please visit: www.managedfunds.org

About Managed Funds Association

MFA is the voice of the global alternative investment industry. Its members are professionals in hedge funds, funds of funds and managed futures funds, as well as industry service providers. Established in 1991, MFA is the primary source of information for policy makers and the media and the leading advocate for sound business practices and industry growth. MFA members include the vast majority of the largest hedge fund groups in the world who manage a substantial portion of the approximately $1.5 trillion invested in absolute return strategies. MFA is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with an office in New York. For more information, please visit: www.managedfunds.org


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Thoughts on Hedge Fund Offering Documents

FAQs on Offering Documents

I recently read an article by a hedge fund administration firm which discussed hedge fund offering documents and start up hedge fund expenses.  I thought this was an interesting topic and one which is popular with many of my start up clients.  Below I discuss some of the common questions regarding the offering documents and also provide reasons why a start up manager should use my law firm for starting a hedge fund.


Offering documents are just boilerplate – why are they so expensive?

This is a common misperception.  Offering documents (if done correctly) are not merely boilerplate where the attorney pops in the fund name and the address – offering documents are a tailored to the specific needs of the client based on the client’s investment program and fund structure.

For instance, there are at least 12 different questions related to the management fee and performance fee/ performance allocation.  There are at least 22 different questions related to the fund’s contribution periods and withdrawal periods.  This level of customization does not come from a boilerplate form.  Furthermore, many of these questions or options may have specific implications for the manager’s business either from a legal standpoint or a business standpoint.  Many times the lawyer will need to have an in-depth discussion with the manager to help the manager determine which option is right for the fund.

Why are offering documents so long?

Offering documents are long – there is no getting around it.  The structure of the offering documents are determined by the federal and state securities laws and thus there is not really any wiggle room.  While it is often said that the hedge fund industry is “not regulated” or “lightly regulated” there are many hedge fund laws and regulations which managers must follow.   These laws dictate many aspects of the documents and are why offering documents are so long (and also why offering documents from different firms are structured so similarly).

In this prior post, discussing “Prospectus Creep” we discussed the length of offering documents:

4.  Is the Prospectus written for the Manager or the Investor?

Castle Hall discusses the interesting phenomenon of “Prospectus Creep” or basically the lengthening of hedge fund offering documents as hedge fund lawyers add more clauses to the documents which are designed to protect the managers.  Castle Hall notes that “today’s offering documents are typically drafted to give maximum freedom of action for the manager and often permit unrestricted investment activities. Investors are also faced with offering documents which list every possible risk factor in an attempt to absolve the manager from responsibility under virtually all loss scenarios.”

HFLB: We agree that offering documents can be long and that often they contain a long list of risk factors associated with the investment program.  The purpose of the offering documents is to explain the manager’s investment program and if the manager truly has a “kitchen sink” investment program, then all of the disclosures and risk factors are a necessary part of the offering documents.  However we also feel that hedge fund offering documents should accurately describe the manager’s proposed investment program and that if the manager has a very specific strategy, he should provide as much detail to the investors as possible.

Can I draft offering documents myself?  I have a friend who has some documents I think I can modify.

No.  You should never draft offering documents yourself.  I have seen countless examples of people who have tried to draft their own offering documents based on another fund.  Many times these people will ask me to “check the documents.”  Ninety-five percent of the time a brief skim of the documents will reveal major errors that cannot simply be fixed with a 2 hour review.   In most all occasions the documents will need to be completely scrapped.

Are all law firm offering documents the same?

No, but law firm documents are all very similar.

It is an interesting phenomenon in the hedge fund legal world that attorneys are always interested in (or obsessed with) reading the other law firms offering documents. As one of those lawyers that is very interested in the differences between the offering documents, I have studied the documents from most all of the major hedge fund law firms including the firms listed below which are considered to be the best in the industry.

  • Sidley Austin
  • Shartsis Friese
  • Seward & Kissel
  • Kleinberg, Kaplan, Wolff & Cohen
  • Katten Muchin Rosenman
  • Schulte Roth & Zabel
  • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
  • K&L Gates

I have probably read through 500 different offering documents (many from the same large law firms) and have found most documents to be quite similar. For the most part with a name brand firm you are going to get a quality product that is probably pretty equal to another large or name brand law firm.  These documents will very likely protect you in all of the necessary ways.

However, that is not to say that all large law firm offering documents are perfect.  I have seen offering documents which cost over $70,000 with typos and errors.  Many times expensive offering documents are sloppy in certain respects – I expect this is because many large law firms use inexperienced associate attorneys to draft the offering documents.

Does price equal quality?

Not necessarily.  While you are less likely to receive white glove service from a document shop, BigLaw does not necessarily equate to fine quality – especially for small and start up managers.  In a large law firm you are going to probably initially talk with a partner about your program who will then relay the information to an associate who will be in charge of your project.  This means that your offering documents are likely drafted by an overworked associate who has relatively little experience.

I always recommend a start up manager ask the law firm who will be drafting the offering documents and how much experience the person has.  Many large law firms will say that an associate will draft the documents but the partner will review prior to finalization.  I find it hard to believe that a partner will review offering documents – many times this is not true.

Low cost offering documents – are you getting less quality?

In some cases yes, but in the case of my law firm documents the answer is a resounding NO.  While my firm will charge around $13,000 to $18,000 for offering documents (considered to be on the lower end), this does not mean that the quality of my work is less than any other firm.

As I have mentioned before on this site, I have worked with a substantial number of start up hedge funds and have drafted the offering documents or worked on around 150 funds.   Also, I have spent a great deal of time dissecting offering documents from a large number of firms.  My dedication to completely understanding the offering documents, along with my passion for the industry and helping managers with their business issues makes my services a compelling alternative to other firms which may cost more.

Additionally, I value the client relationship and always strive to return emails and phone calls promptly.


While the offering documents are the tangible item which you receive from your hedge fund lawyer, it is not the only part of the representation.  The offering documents are not valuable as objects, but really as a representation of the prior experience of the attorney who prepared those documents for your fund, based on your needs.


Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to start a hedge fund. Other related hedge fund law articles include:

Bart Mallon, Esq. runs hedge fund law blog and has written most all of the articles which appear on this website.  Mr. Mallon’s legal practice is devoted to helping emerging and start up hedge fund managers successfully launch a hedge fund.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund, or if you have questions about becoming registered as a CPO or CTA, please call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-296-8510.

Hedge Fund Fees | Discussion of Future Trends

The following article is by Christopher Addy, President and CEO of Castle Hall Alternatives, a hedge fund due diligence firm.  We have published a number of pieces by Mr. Addy in the past (please see Hedge Fund Due Diligence Issues, Issues for Hedge Fund Administrators to Consider and ERISA vs. the Hedge Fund Industry).  The following post can be found here.


Hedge Fund Fees: Is It Worth It To Pay For A Star Hedge Fund?

An article in the current week’s edition of the Economist asks whether one-and-ten will become the new two-and-twenty.

The discussion notes that there will be clear fee pressure on fund of funds.  We will return to the question of fund of funds in a later post: as a quick precis of our views, while Madoff has raised long overdue questions about whether fund of funds really complete due diligence (saying no always gets in the way of making money) we still see plenty of room for fund of funds who genuinely can serve as expert intermediaries.  Fund of funds as a provider of expertise rather than a provider of capacity, and, separately, fund of funds offering funds of managed accounts, both seem like valid models going forward.

For single strategy managers, the Economist makes several points in a single paragraph:

“Those funds with excellent records will manage to maintain their fee rates. Big diversified managers with mediocre performance will have to cut fees to hold on to their assets. Given the “high watermarks” in place, which require that losses be recouped before performance fees can be charged, they may struggle to retain top staff, although they should at least be able to stay in business. The real threat is to smaller operators—half of all hedge funds manage less than $100m. Lower management fees may not cover their fixed costs, such as salaries, accommodation and IT. The era of hedge-fund managers being unable to pay the rent may soon be dawning.”

While these points are valid, we remain very unconvinced by the argument that “those funds with excellent records will manage to maintain their fee rates.”  More precisely, we agree that the largest funds with good performance will likely keep their fee schedules: but we are unconvinced that those fees are worth it when they are above 2 and 20.

If 2008 has shown us anything, it’s that – as we noted in our last post – you can’t rely on a “best of the best” hedge fund to deliver guaranteed performance.

Plenty of articles have been published commenting on the relative performance of some of the industry’s largest funds – Bloomberg in this piece commented on a variety of funds: while there were winners such as Paulson, Brevan Howard and Winton, there were also plenty of losers, notably Citadel.  Another excellent Bloomberg article on Fortress noted that the firm’s Drawbridge Global Macro was down -26% while Drawbridge Special Opportunities lost 18%.  This article from early November commented on performance from a number of funds: it only got worse by year end.  Any hedge fund investor looking down their portfolio sees the same pattern of apparently random winners and losers among what were previously Top 100, star managers.

Ex post, therefore, some big funds funds have proved themselves to be worth their fees.  Plenty of them, however, have proved not to be.  Investors couldn’t predict the winners and losers beforehand during this market crisis: will they somehow be better at picking the big hedge funds that will be winners rather than losers when we have the next Black Swan event?  Why should investors pay, ex ante, excess fees to any hedge fund based solely on a historical track record?

This line of thinking raises some broader questions.  From our side, we have always been very skeptical of the largest hedge funds.  Indeed, back in early November 2007 we wrote a post called “People are spooked…so let’s invest in big hedge funds.  Is there really a flight to quality?” In that post, we wrote the following:

“This redirection of capital inflows [towards the biggest hedge funds] does seem to be driven by institutional investors.  If we were to ask ourselves, however, what are the three most important issues for institutions considering a hedge fund allocation, we expect the answer would be:

1) Transparency
2) Fees
3) Independent oversight

But…the Top 25 hedge funds now receiving such large allocations of institutional capital have the most restrictive transparency, the highest fees and no independent oversight (virtually all do not appoint an independent administrator, meaning that investors must rely on the manager to calculate each NAV and price all the assets with no third party check.)

We’re really puzzled by this paradox – there’s obviously a big difference between what institutions say they want, and what they are prepared to invest in.

Why is this?  Obviously, there’s strength in numbers, and it’s easy to justify an allocation to a firm if pretty much everyone else in the industry has already invested.  But, to point out the obvious again, the Bear Stearns funds were run by the Wall Street house with the reputation for the greatest expertise in mortgage and structured securities available in the industry.  Amaranth was one of the most sophisticated multi strategy funds available.  Sowood was formed by superstar managers from the Harvard Management Company.  Basis Capital in Australia had the highest possible, 5 star rating from Standard & Poors.  The list goes on, and on.

The lesson, therefore, is simple and obvious: do not to take anything for granted.  Certainly, asking hard questions – and being prepared to walk away – would have served potential investors in the above funds well.  This is not the last time hedge fund investors will learn this lesson.”

Well yes.

As we noted nearly 18 months ago, the biggest firms typically have the highest fees, have limited transparency and often don’t have independent oversight over their NAVs.  We would also add that it is typically the largest firms that ask for the longest lock ups: investors who signed up in ’06 and ’07 to 3 and 5 year lock classes must be pretty unhappy right now.  Moreover, the biggest firms usually have the tightest gates and most restrictive redemption provisions in their offering documents: 2008 has shown that many (most?) of the industry’s largest funds have chosen to suspend redemptions, impose involuntary restructurings etc.

Where does that leave investors?  We don’t deny that some of the largest hedge funds remain deeply resourced, highly skilled money managers.  On the other hand, our point is not to write off the small guy.

For many reasons, we believe that there is a real value in being a “bigger fish in a smaller sea”.  Thinking of operational issues, a larger investor in a smaller fund has so much more leverage:

  • Power to negotiate fees
  • Power to influence the terms of the offering document, and particularly to impact provisions related to gates, suspensions, side pockets etc.
  • Better operational transparency
  • Ability to engage in a constructive dialogue about operational controls: smaller funds are, for example, much more likely to have an administrator.  Smaller managers typically also give more information about their procedures, enabling investors to get a better understanding of key controls such as valuation.  Moreover, if a small firm needs to improve, they are much more likely to listen to a large, strategic investor – in fact, they are much more likely to listen full stop.

Investing in a smaller hedge fund – particularly now – gives the investor much better power to enter into that investment in a spirit of partnership.  It also provides more flexibility on the way in and on the way out.  That is massively different from going to a large multi strat and still facing an unappetizing menu of terms such as a 3 year lock class, a 8% rolling quarterly redemption provision, a 2 and 25, 3 and 30 fee structure et al et al.

One of the questions we always ask ourselves when we visit a hedge fund is about the culture of the manager.  Put simply, does it feel as if the manager thinks we are doing him a favor by giving him our capital, or is there a sense that the manager feels he is doing us a favor by letting us in.

Right now, we would always pay less for a receptive manager than pay more for a fund which still thinks that that we need them more than they need us.

Hedge Fund Operational Due Diligence

Revising Hedge Fund Offering Documents

It is very important that hedge fund managers always provide potential investors with hedge fund offering documents which are current and up to date.* Because of certain changes to the various hedge fund laws within the past few months (and because of the increased likelihood of future rules/regulations changes) a hedge fund private placement memorandum which was current 3 months ago will likely need to be revised.

*As always, hedge fund offering documents should only be drafted by a knowledgeable hedge fund attorney.

Specifically, there are two changes which will need to be implemented immediately – the change of the new issue rule (applicable to most funds) and the abolition of Section 409 (applicable to a small number of hedge funds). This article will detail the changes that will need to be made and will discuss how your hedge fund attorney will go about this. Continue reading

SEC Stands Behind “Fair Value” Accounting

FASB may re-evaluate FAS 157 in light of recent market events

While the SEC does not directly control the manner in which hedge fund assets are valued for the purpose of striking a NAV for a fund, the SEC valuation policies are important for hedge funds in a number of different ways.  Maybe most important is that the SEC valuation guidelines require issuers of securities to adhere to certain valuation practices with regard to their own assets.  Recently Congress mandated the SEC reevaluate its valuation guidelines in light of the market collapse of 2008. Continue reading

Hedge Fund Disclaimer

How to write a hedge fund disclaimer

One of the more unusual requests (in my opinion) that we receive on this site is how to write a hedge fund disclaimer.  I think that this is unusual because I would assume that most hedge fund managers would want to make sure that anything with a disclaimer has been reviewed and approved by a hedge fund attorney.  If you are a manager who is looking for an “off the shelf” disclaimer, I recommend that you speak with a hedge fund attorney instead.  Any hedge fund marketing or promotional materials (including hedge fund websites) should be reviewed by an attorney prior to publishing or dissemination. Continue reading

Can a hedge fund value its own assets?

Hedge Fund Questions

For the new year we will publish a list of common questions we receive from our readers.  This question involves hedge fund valuation.

Question: Can a hedge fund provide its own valuation?

Answer: Generally yes, provided that the hedge fund offering documents state that the valuation of the hedge fund’s assets will be conducted by the fund – more specifically by the hedge fund’s management company.  In many hedge fund documents a provision which allows a manager flexibility in valuation is standard – although, it is likely that these normally nebulous provisions will become more specific as institutional investors require greater specificity in the offering documents. Continue reading

Offshore Hedge Funds – Side by Side Hedge Fund Structure

Offshore hedge funds can be structured in a number of different ways including a stand alone structure, a master-feeder structure and a side by side structure.  This article discusses the side by side hedge fund structure and also provides a side by side offshore hedge fund organizational chart.  As we have noted earlier in an article regarding offshore hedge fund structural considerations, a side by side offshore hedge fund is a structure consisting of two distinct entities which are managed in the same way by a single management company.

I attached the following Offshore Side by Side Hedge Fund Organizational Chart so that hedge fund managers can get an idea of the structures involved and the flow of payments. This specific chart details (1) a management fee and a performance allocation paid from the domestic counterpart and (2) a management fee and a performance fee paid from the offshore counterpart.  Offshore hedge fund managers should discuss these aspects of their offshore hedge funds with their attorneys. Continue reading