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Hedge Fund Industry Shows Weak Returns As Managers Take Home $13 Billion

Just keep saying meritocracy. Despite a thoroughly lackluster performance recently, the hedge fund industry is still setting records in executive compensation.

Hedge funds were down 2% last quarter, their worst performance since 2008. Prior to that, hedge funds saw record outflows and last year 979 funds closed their doors. But while many investors are running for the hills (when they weren’t losing their shirts), those managing the funds are getting disgustingly rich.

According to a recent industry survey, the 25 best-paid hedge fund managers took home $13 billion in 2015—a 10% increase over 2014. And, of course, thanks to the carried-interest tax loophole much of their loot was taxed at a lower rate than income.

In fairness, the top-paid were the best performing. Hedge fund managers take both a management fee and a cut of any profits. The management fee is, typically, 2% of all assets under management, while the cut of profits is, typically, 20%. This, supposedly, aligns fund managers’ interests more with their clients/investors than other management structures.

And yet, for those funds that closed or had a down year, managers still got to keep their lucrative management fees. So a fund manager who was down for the year but had a billion dollars under management operating under the 2% fee rate still received $20 million in compensation.

Not a bad pay day for a useless job you suck at.

One of the most common defenses of the hedge fund industry is that middle class and working Americans are not the ones getting scalped because in order to invest in a hedge fund under the rules you have to be an “accredited investor,” which requires that you have a million dollar net worth and can document having an income of at least $200,000 for two years.

Given the average American’s net worth is well under a million dollars and US median income household income is around $50,000, you might think few Americans should be concerned with the fate of the hedge fund industry or their scalped clients. And you would be wrong.

Hedge funds have moved beyond just rich gamblers and into managing endowments and public pension funds. In fact, some of the largest public employee pension funds recently announced that, despite the recent terrible performance of the industry, they are going to continue to invest the members’ money with hedge funds.

What could go wrong?

Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.