Do Private Equity Funds Game Returns?
Gregory W. Brown
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Finance Area
University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School
Steven N. Kaplan
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
March 31, 2014
Fama-Miller Working Paper
By their nature, private equity funds hold assets that are hard to value. This uncertainty in asset valuation gives rise to the potential for fund managers to manipulate reported net asset values (NAVs). Managers may have an incentive to game valuations in the short-run if these are used by investors to make decisions about commitments to subsequent funds managed by the same firm. Using a large dataset of buyout and venture funds, we test for the presence of reported NAV manipulation. We find evidence that some managers boost reported NAVs during times that fundraising activity is likely to occur. Those managers, however, are subsequently unable to raise a next fund, suggesting that investors see through the manipulation. In contrast, we find that top-performing funds under-report returns. This conservatism is consistent with these firms insuring against future bad luck that could make them appear as though they are NAV manipulators. Our results are robust to a variety of specifications and alternative explanations.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 62
Keywords: Private Equity, Venture Capital, Buyout Funds Mutual Funds, Institutional Investors
JEL Classification: G23, G24, G30
Date posted: May 30, 2013 ; Last revised: August 30, 2014
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