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The Economics of Hedge Funds: Alpha, Fees, Leverage, and Valuation

44 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2011 Last revised: 16 Mar 2011

Yingcong Lan

Cornerstone Research - New York Office

Neng Wang

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics

Jinqiang Yang

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 31, 2011

Abstract

Hedge fund managers are compensated via management fees on the assets under management (AUM) and incentive fees indexed to the high-water mark (HWM). We study the effects of managerial skills (alpha) and compensation on dynamic leverage choices and the valuation of fees and investors' payoffs. Increasing the investment allocation to the alpha-generating strategy typically lowers the fund's risk-adjusted excess return due to frictions such as price pressure. When the manager is only paid via management fees, the manager optimally chooses time-invariant leverage to balance the size of allocation to the alpha-generating strategy against the negative impact of increasing size on the fund's alpha. When the manager is paid via both management and incentive fees, we show that (i) the high-powered incentive fees encourage excessive risk taking, while management fees have the opposite effect; (ii) conflicts of interest between the manager and investors have significant effects on dynamically changing leverage choices and the valuation of fees and investors' payoffs; (iii) the manager optimally increases leverage following strong fund performances; (iv) investors' options to liquidate the fund following sufficiently poor fund performances substantially curtail managerial risk-taking, provide strong incentives to de-leverage, and sometimes even give rise to strong precautionary motives to hoard cash (in long positions); and (v) managerial ownership concentration has incentive alignment effects.

Keywords: assets under management (AUM), high-water mark, alpha, management fees, incentive fees, conflicts of interest, liquidation option, managerial ownership

JEL Classification: G2, G32

Suggested Citation

Lan, Yingcong and Wang, Neng and Yang, Jinqiang, The Economics of Hedge Funds: Alpha, Fees, Leverage, and Valuation (January 31, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1754634 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1754634

Yingcong Lan

Cornerstone Research - New York Office ( email )

599 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10022
United States

Neng Wang (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Jinqiang Yang

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics ( email )

777 Guoding Road
Shanghai, Shanghai 200433
China

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