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20 Jan 2009

Independent Hedge Fund Management Key to Investor Trust

The recent wave of scandal related to hedge funds and funds of funds has made investors think twice about investing in self-administrated funds, see 'Andrew Schneider on Nadel Funds'.

Dermot Butler, Chairman of alternative fund administrator, Custom House Group, said, “In today’s new investment environment, more than ever hedge funds and funds-of-funds must have independent outside administrators as a foundation to help rebuild investor confidence and attract new investment capital.”

Fund administrators, such as the $35 billion Custom House Group, provide a range of services to funds and fund-of-funds including (but not limited to), fund accounting, portfolio valuation, NAV calculation and shareholder services as well as anti-money laundering services and reconciliation services and record-keeping functions.

“In anything less than an independent fund administration relationship, there is at the very least a perception that a conflict of interest may exist that could prevent objective verification of a fund’s investment activities and even the existence of underlying assets in a given fund, let alone an objective and accurate valuation of the fund's assets,” Butler said. “This perceived conflict may occur when an outside administrator is affiliated with a financial institution, with an investment manager, or when the administrator is associated with a hedge fund itself.”

“As stand-alone companies, independent administrators have no affiliations to any outside financial entities, et ergo, no such conflicts exist,” he concluded.

Excerpts and Commentary on Ben McGrath’s "The Dystopians" – Jan 26th, New Yorker

"Bad times are boom times for some."

The article starts off with US resident Dmitry Orlov, from Leningrad, who has been living on a semi-self-sustainable boat in a form 'bourgeois survivalism' for 2 ½ years, riding a bicycle and skipping the TV.

After the downfall of the Soviet Union he learned a lesson for future reference: “When faced with a collapsing economy, one should stop thinking of wealth in terms of money.”

In his 2008 book, “Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects,” Orlov identifies the ingredients of what he calls “superpower collapse soup” — a severe shortfall in the production of crude oil, a worsening foreign-trade deficit, an oversized military budget, and crippling foreign debt.

“We don’t have a long wait before sail-based transport is the only option,” he said, anticipating dire environmental conditions. Should the need to raise chickens arise, Orlov and his wife will "set sail and relocate to a more rural base of operations," where the boat, Hogfish, which has a flat bottom, can double as a trailer home.

In 2006, Orlov published an online manifesto, “The New Age of Sail,” where he writes that sailing has the additional benefit of providing “isometric exercise similar to a Pilates workout,” because of the constant jostling of the sea. “People who live aboard are rarely overweight.”

In a blog that he maintains, Club Orlov, he categorises his readers into three basic cultural categories;

1. “back-to-the-land types,” united in their opposition to industrial agriculture;

2. “peak oilers,” who worry about the shock effects on energy markets of reaching the maximum global crude-extraction rate; and all-around Cassandras, and

3. “people who sometimes derisively are called doomers.” (The doomers are currently enjoying a little less derision, which is a mixed blessing, because it is axiomatic among true believers that mainstream respect means that it is too late for anything to be done.)

Orlov has recently acquired a fourth audience, composed of financial professionals, who have been, as he said, “bolstering my gut feeling that the United States is bankrupt.” A number of them have placed orders for multiple copies of his book, and he took some pleasure in imagining them passing it on to their friends and families this past holiday season as a grim kind of stocking stuffer.

Also mentioned is Jim Sinclair and his website:, on which he posts daily blitzes of commentary with headers like “What Happens in Iceland Doesn’t Always Stay in Iceland.”

Ben McGrath meets James Howard Kunstler, author of “The Geography of Nowhere,” and “World Made by Hand,” which is set in a small town north of Albany, where the residents have no oil, no coffee, no spices, no mail delivery, and only sporadic electricity, but marijuana cultivation is booming and they’re growing “buds the size of plums.”

Also recommended for dystopians are Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” and Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s best-selling book “The Black Swan,” about the inevitability of unforeseeable events.

“I’d say an emergency meeting of the G7 is pretty much the front entrance,” Kunstler said. “Although who would have thought Iceland would be the first to go?...... Capitalism and human ingenuity persist; it’s only the economic incentives that change."

Kunstler likes to say that the United States has “a railroad system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of,” and told a joke involving orders from the Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, to his underlings, to “buy the Dow,” in order to stave off consumer panic.

Three days after the Presidential election, in Montpelier, Vermont, at a convention of nearly two hundred “neo-Luddites, anarchists, socialists, freegans, steampunks, homeschoolers, folksingers, knitters and yak farmers”, Knustler called himself “an emissary from a place you may someday regard as foreign: New York State. . . . For the moment, we remain sister and brother states in a nation that is enduring a convulsion.”

He declared that the airline industry as we know it will not exist within forty-eight months, or by the end of President Obama’s first term.

These were people whose solution to the imminent death of the American dream was secession: a Vermont Independence Convention, sponsored by the Second Vermont Republic, a “nonviolent citizens’ network and think tank opposed to the tyranny of Corporate America and the U.S. Government.”

Also speaking were Chellis Glendinning, the author of “My Name Is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization,” and Lynette Clark, the chair of the Alaskan Independence Party,

The speeches were accompanied by comic and musical interludes from the Bread & Puppet Theatre, whose members wore bear costumes and danced around with plungers, and by the singing of the Vermont secession anthem: “It’s Vermonters to the lifeboats, this is a sinkin’ ship....”

Alex Akesson
Editor for

Along these lines I would also recommend reading: "Game Over" how to prosper in a shattered economy – by Stephen Leeb.

Obama's Stimulus Package - New Yorker Review

I received an advance copy of an article from the financial pages of next weeks New Yorker, "A Smarter Stimulus", where James Surowiecki describes the pros and cons of Obama's plan to include more than a hundred billion dollars in individual tax rebates in his stimulus package.

Although his promised tax cuts are a surefire political winner, he has also earned criticism from both ends of the political spectrum, Surowiecki writes, "Skeptics on both sides worry that most people will save the rebate rather than spend it."

In the past, as in 2001, less than half of the tax rebate was estimated to have been spent, the article says. And while the results of last year’s rebate seem to have been somewhat more encouraging, much of it still went unspent.

Surowiecki also explains how people will either on spend or save depending on where the money comes from, "Casino winnings are more likely to be spent than, say, money from an inheritance." he says, "A key factor is whether people think of a windfall as wealth or as income. If they think of it as wealth, they’re more likely to save it, and if they think of it as income they’re more likely to spend it."

The article concludes: "On its own, Obama’s rebate plan isn’t going to resurrect the economy. But it’s a policy that works with people as they are, rather than as we imagine they should be. And that’s a stimulus in itself."

Available from January 26th, "A Smarter Stimulus" by James Surowiecki, New Yorker.

Third Party Administrators to Improve Hedge Fund Transparency

In an example of how hedge funds and CTAs are turning to third-party administrators with an eye on offering their investors improved transparency, hedge fund and FoHF provider Spectrum Global Fund Administration has teamed up with with AlphaMetrix LLC, a managed futures investment platform.

AlphaMetrix says it chose Spectrum for their "ability to easily provide estimated daily NAVs and to facilitate semi-monthly liquidity, critical differentiators at a time of heightened investor sensitivity regarding alternative investments." The platform will provide investors with access, research and real-time performance reporting to managed futures funds and commodity trading advisors (CTAs).

“The AlphaMetrix value proposition is built on what we call ‘TLC,’ which stands for transparency, liquidity and custody,” said Aleks Kins, founder and CEO of AlphaMetrix. “In partnering with Spectrum, we have selected the only fund administrator that can produce the estimated daily NAV reporting our clients demand, and handle the increased complexity associated with more frequent liquidity.”

Currently, client assets allocated over the AlphaMetrix Platform total approximately $1.7 billion, which includes both direct investments and managed account tracking.

Hedge Fund Manager SVM Launches Long/Short Fund

Privately-owned investment management company, SVM Asset Management, is seeking approval from the Financial Services Authority for the launch of the long/short SVM UK Absolute Alpha Fund, which has a similar investment approach to their SVM Saltire fund, which returned +19.7% in 2008.

The fund, if approved, will have the flexibility to move from a net long to a net short position differentiating it from other absolute return funds, the company says. Managed by Colin McLean, returns will be driven by stock selection and the net position of the fund will be determined by whether the manager has more long or short stock ideas at the time.

"In 2008 just 31 of the stocks in the FTSE All Share ended the year higher, and 580 were down. It is therefore not surprising that few long only managers were able to profit," McLean says, "Without question this year will be challenging for the economy. However, at a company level there will be winners and losers and fundamental stock picking skills will be required to identify them."

The focus will be on generating positive returns over the long term rather than positive performance each month, as such SVM believes the appropriate time frame for investing in the new fund is at least three years.

Based in Edinburgh, SVM focuses principally on global fund of funds, UK and European equities.