aberrational performance

The SEC has a thing called the Aberrational Performance Inquiry that runs a screen of hedge funds, selects the ones whose performance looks too good to be true, then sees if it is. This raises questions from the empirical (what is the conversion rate of “looks too good to be true” to “is in fact too good to be true”?), through the practical (do they, like, investigate Bridgewater every quarter?), up to the philosophical, which goes something like “if your hit rate is, as theory predicts, above some threshold, where does that leave you?” I feel like this initiative stirs up deep questions and should have people worried, and not just the fraudsters. If I were advertising my hedge fund1 I would want to say “the SEC thinks we’re an aberration, but not the fraudy kind.” If your hedge fund can’t say that, why invest?

Anyway the screen came up aces with Yorkville Advisors:2

Securities regulators on Wednesday sued Yorkville Advisors LLC and its top executives, accusing the New Jersey hedge fund of reporting false and inflated values for some of its investments.

Named in the lawsuit, brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, were Yorkville, which has been one of the largest funds specializing in thinly traded micro-cap and small-cap companies, founder and President Mark Angelo and Chief Financial Officer Edward Schinik.

The firm misreported values as the financial crisis hit in 2008 and 2009 and market conditions deteriorated, and its returns during the period consisted mostly of unrealized gains from marked-up investments, the SEC said.

The SEC’s release and complaint are deeply pleasant; we make fun of the SEC a bit around here so it’s worth saying that this is impressive work and I Like It A Lot. Yorkville had a pretty good plan, as the SEC lays it out. Here’s what you do: Read more »

Are you a hedge fund that’s made it a habit of doing right by your clients? Just barely justifying your fees? Doing your job? SEC director of enforcement Robert Khuzami is on to you. He knows the only way anyone could beat the market by 3 percent (or what he calls “aberrational performance”) is by being a genetic freak or criminal. So everybody just sit there with your hands in the air. You’re all suspect. Read more »