We’ve talked a bit before about how there’s a booming academic business in papers finding that investment managers do or do not add value versus non-managed alternatives like passive indexing or keeping your money under your pillow and just burning a constant percentage of it every month. Part of why that’s a thing is that the data can be prodded, smooshed, or cherry-picked to say many different things, and so they are. I enjoyed this paper about mutual funds by Stanford GSB profs Jonathan Berk and Jules Van Binsbergen (NBER today here, SSRN in April here) in part for its discussion of data problems, which starts with the fact that they used the industry-standard (in the academic-papers-about-mutual-funds industry) CRSP database and compared it to Morningstar data because “even a casual perusal of the returns on CRSP is enough to reveal that some of the reported returns are suspect.” Suspect like:
We then compared the returns reported on CRSP to what was reported on Morningstar. Somewhat surprisingly, 3.3% of return observations differed. Even if we restrict attention to returns that differ by more than 10 b.p., 1.3% of the data is inconsistent. An example of this is when a 10% return is accidentally reported as “10.0″ instead of “0.10″.
That is one way to get alpha. Anyway they look at the data using a (strangely) unusual metric of dollar value added, which is roughly alpha (gross excess return over some investable benchmark, in this case a Vanguard index fund) and multiplying it by assets under management, the intuition being that making 1% excess return on a $10bn portfolio is more impressive than doubling your $10 bet at the craps table. And they find that mutual fund managers are better than controlled money burning by the thinnest of margins: Read more »
Former Madoff Employee Pleads Guilty To *A* Madoff Securities Scam Just Not *The* Madoff Securities ScamBy Bess Levin
You know what has got to suck? When you decide to start charging stuff that doesn’t fall under “business expenses” to your corporate card and engage in a few other amateur hours scams that probably would have gone unnoticed (or, if discovered, not taken to the authorities because the boss had high tolerance for fraud) but then they are because the CEO of your firm had to go and engage in the largest Ponzi scheme on record, which shone an uncomfortable light on company personnel and all of the cheese, popcorn, and salsa of the month clubs you joined (for example). Craig Kugel knows what we’re talking about. Read more »
Convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff was “desperately disappointed” that the owners of the Mets chose to settle the fraud lawsuit brought on behalf of victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, CBS News reported Wednesday. “He wrote me last weekend that he was so looking forward to that trial,” said Diane Henriques, author of the book “Wizard of Lies” which detailed Madoff’s fraud. “He was hoping that the Mets’ defense would make the case he was making to me that they had no reason to doubt Madoff.” The trustee for Madoff’s victims, Irving Picard, was set to argue at trial that Mets owner Fred Wilpon, once a friend of Madoff and a longtime investor, was willfully blind and chose to ignore signs that Madoff was producing fraudulent returns. Henriques told CBS that in recent emails from prison Madoff blasted Picard, who was seeking more than $300 million at trial. “He calls Picard a fool, an amateur, says he doesn’t understand the market, says he never understood the market, that he’s just lost on Wall Street,” Henriques said. [NYP]
Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax may testify for the owners of New York Mets at a civil trial accusing them of turning a blind eye to Bernard Madoff’s epic fraud. … According to the Mets owners, Koufax opened a Madoff account at Wilpon’s suggestion, and has been a lifelong friend of Wilpon, with whom he played high school baseball in Brooklyn, New York. “It strains credulity to think that Mr. Wilpon would expose his oldest and closest friend to potential financial ruin” by letting him invest with Madoff, if he knew Madoff was a fraud, the Mets owners said.