- Wikimedia Commons
Hedge funds as a group have posted dismal returns this year.
According to the hedge fund research firm Preqin, September marked the fourth consecutive month of negative returns, making this the longest negative period since June to November in 2008.
In other words, it’s the longest period of negative returns since the height of the financial crisis, yet there’s no crisis at the moment.
The average hedge fund is up only 0.18% year to date, putting hedge funds on track for the lowest returns since 2011, Preqin said.
The strategies getting hit the hardest are equity and event-driven. Relative value funds have been the only bright spot, with the average fund posting gains of 4.11% so far this year.
The titans getting bruised
Numerous big names have been getting bruised, especially after the volatility in August.
Here’s a scorecard based on performance data from HSBC, investor updates, and media reports:
Third Point Offshore (Dan Loeb): -4.4% (through September 30) Pershing Square Holdings (Bill Ackman): -9.6% (performance through October 13) Marcato International (Mick McGuire): -11.6% (through September 30) Paulson Advantage (John Paulson): -12% (through September 30) Omega Overseas Partners (Leon Cooperman): -12.02% (through September 30) Glenview Capital (Larry Robbins): -13.5% (through September 30) Greenlight Capital Offshore (David Einhorn): -16.88% (through September 30) Fortress Macro Fund (Mike Novogratz): -17.49% (fund closing)
Of course, these names aren’t necessarily indicative of the entire industry, which is made up of nearly 10,000 hedge funds.
Hedge funds on averageare still outperforming the S&P 500, which is down about 3.14% this year.
What about the fees?
Still, the less-than-stellar returns have renewed questions about hedge fund compensation. Generally speaking, hedge funds aim to control risk and generate profits, no matter what the market is doing. For some, that performance just isn’t there.
- REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Hedgefund managers are usually paid through a compensation structure commonly known as the “2 and 20,” which stands for a 2% management fee and a 20% performance fee. That means a hedge fund manager would charge investors 2% of total assets under management and 20% of any profits.
Warren Buffett, who spoke Tuesday at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, slammed hedge funds and their fee structure.
Buffett’s argument is that some funds don’t really have to deliver on their promise for performance when they can collect a 2% fee just for managing massive amounts of capital. He used the example of a $20 billion fund taking home $400 million just from the management fees.
Bond guru Bill Gross of Janus Capital has also weighed in this week. On Tuesday, Gross took to Twitter to bash hedge fund fees.
“Gross: Story of The Day – Deep out of the money hedge funds shut down if 20% of profits out of reach. Start over later with clean slate!,” Janus tweeted on his behalf.
Gross’ tweet came just minutes after Fortress Investment Group said it was closing its macro hedge fund after a challenging two years and that the fund’s CIO, Mike Novogratz, would also retire with a $255 million payout based on his equity in the company.
Some are killing it
Not everyone is getting hammered.
- Reuters/ Rick Wilking
One standout has been the $4.1 billion macro fund manager Passport Capital, led by John Burbank.
Passport’s Special Opportunities Fund is up 37.78%, and Passport’s Global Strategy Fund is up 17.77%, according to data from HSBC.
Burbank, who killed it betting against subprime in 2007, has been calling for another another crisis. This time, it will be a liquidity crisis in which there simply won’t be enough participants to take the other side of the trade if the market sells off again.
It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s “going in the path of inevitability,” he said.