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Defending Investment Management Fees

Last update on: Mar 14 2020

The Yale University Endowment Fund doesn’t follow the low-cost, index investing strategy of portfolio management. Instead, it owns a lot of hedge funds, private equity funds, and similar investments. The endowment pays a lot of fees to the managers of these funds, and it thinks that’s a good idea. In its annual report the endowment spends a lot of time explaining that the university would be shortchanged and worse off if the endowment were to focus on paying low fees and move away from these investments. This article summarizes the situation.

“What Buffett, Gladwell and other fee bashers miss is that the important metric is net returns, not gross fees,’’ the report said. “Weak or negative returns would result in low or no performance-related fees, but would be a terrible outcome for the university.’’

Yale’s investment strategy emphasizes long-term active management of equity-oriented, yet often illiquid assets, with more than half the fund in alternative investments. Almost a third of Yale’s 2016 allocation is in private equity, including 16.2 percent in venture capital and 14.7 percent in leveraged buyouts. About 22 percent is in absolute return with hedged-like strategies.

“Performance-based compensation earned by external, active investment managers is a direct consequence of investment outperformance,’’ it said.

 

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