Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Due diligence in a post-Madoff world

Following the exposure of the $50 billion Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, investors and fund managers are under increasing pressure to perform more rigorous due diligence of hedge funds. But is that easier said than done?

If you look at some of the facts surrounding the Madoff scheme; lack of clear separation of duties, an unregistered auditor and the promise of high returns; then it is clear that feeder funds and other investors in Madoff's scheme failed to perform sufficient due diligence. In fact it seems as if their only rationale for putting money into Madoff's fund was his previously untarnished reputation (he was a former Nasdaq chairman) and the spectre of high returns.

Corgentum Consulting, a hedge fund operational risk consultancy based in New Jersey, has some interesting insights into how the exposure of Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme is likely to change the world of hedge fund due diligence.

"Successful operational risk management in the post-Madoff world will require hedge funds to walk a tightrope of continually boosting investor confidence in a fund’s operational risk management capabilities, while not destroying and competitive advantages or informational edges through the dissemination of this information," says Corgentum.
Instead of outsourcing operational due diligence to "hedge fund allocators", Corgentum's believes that investors will want to exert greater control over the process and that the scope and depth of operational issues covered in a due diligence review will be more exhaustive. The frequency of hedge fund reviews will also be increased, says Corgentum.

"No longer will it be sufficient for investors to rely on generic due diligence questionnaires or to be granted a meeting with a hedge fund’s senior operational professionals for a few hours once a year for an annual review," says Corgentum. "Investors will likely request much greater detail on a host of different operational issues ranging from legal and compliance issues, information technology, cash management and valuation."

The upshot of all this is that hedge fund's "already strained" resources are likely to come under further pressure, resulting in lower profit margins, says Corgentum. Only those funds that make the due diligence process run as smoothly as possible for investors are likely to attract capital.

But that does not account for the age-old problem of human greed - investors and fund managers are driven to seek high returns. So despite all this talk of more rigorous due diligence of hedge funds, will it still be easy for a Madoff-type character to pull the wool over investors' and fund managers' eyes purely by promising market-beating returns?


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I just finished reading an excellent book put out by an individual who works for Corgentum, Jason Scharfman on the subject of operational due diligence. It was called, Hedge Fund Operational Due Diligence. Would highly recommend this - gave me an insight into daily world of ops due diligence.

I agree - greed will always exist but it seems to me by doing some of this work it will reduce some of the risk of the next Madoff.

cash advance california said...

Beware of the people around you Most of the people who do credit card scams are in group of people that try to convince you to use your credit cards until they can solicit money from it.