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20 May 2009

Hedge Funds & ‘Open Source Intelligence’

Hedge funds, private equity firms are using “political intelligence” to monitor tax reform, SEC registration, TARP, TALF and PPIPs, according to the OSINT Group, a boutique advisory firm based in Washington specializing in “open source intelligence” (OSINT).

The US Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, the SEC and Congress are all playing a major role in rapidly evolving monetary policy and regulatory change across the international financial marketplace, OINST said. Those institutions, along with the IMF and World Bank, make Washington DC the financial centre for policy decisions and breaking financial news.

“To understand what financial and political leaders are doing today and planning for tomorrow, institutional investors need to do more than monitor news and data services. They need to know more. They need answers to questions from a consistently reliable source of insight into the world of politics and policy,” said Michael Bagley, a principal with the OSINT Group.

“When you need to understand policy and politics accurately and consistently, we take the guesswork out of the analysis. Top corporations and foreign governments set a very high standard for the outside counsel they retain for managing risk and unearthing new opportunities,” Bagley said. “We consult with a group of experts from the ranks of lobbying, academia, industry, journalism and law who are skilled in every major area of policy and politics. Our 'political intelligence' unit is built on a single powerful idea: to provide institutional investors with accurate, actionable and timely information created by the currents of political forces and regulatory decisions.”

The group was established to assist government and commercial sector clients in the energy and financial industries with unique “open source” intelligence collection and delivery. In addition to technology used by the US Intelligence Community, the firm uses its network of relationships and personal connections in Washington to gather “political intelligence” for clients who need to better understand how the US Government will influence the international markets with new financial-sector regulation and legislation.

Hedge Funds & The Sarbanes-Oxley Act

Leading alternative investment firms are adopting best practices for their funds with an eye to the Sarbanes-Oxley act*, hedge fund provider, TKS Solutions said in an announcement, also launching a new system specifically designed for hedge funds.

*The act was created in 2002 as a reaction to a number of major corporate and accounting scandals including those affecting Enron, Tyco International, Adelphia, Peregrine Systems and WorldCom. A new, quasi-public agency, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB, charged with overseeing, regulating, inspecting and disciplining accounting firms in their roles as auditors of public companies.

"New regulations are not the only issue funds have to deal with" says Ron Kashden, president of TKS Solutions. "With the tight capital market many investors are demanding more flexibility in their fee structure and liquidity terms. The days of complacent investors willing to lock in their capital for years at a time may be over. Funds that have always allowed for annual and even quarterly redemptions are finding that they have to offer monthly liquidity to attract new capital. While this makes sense from a business stand-point, it introduces accounting complexities that are wreaking havoc in the back office. Simple tasks, such as accruing management fees, can quickly become an arduous calculation when funds that charge quarterly allow redemptions on a monthly basis.

Adding to the complexity, TKS said, is that fund administrators are reporting new fee structures with innovative loss-recovery provisions. While this adds pressure for portfolio performance, it also provides the fund with a revenue source to live off of in bad times. Managing these intricacies necessitates accounting tools and practices that funds may not have required historically. Yesterday’s spreadsheets are giving way to sophisticated software packages specifically tailored for the back-office needs.

From an operational perspective, the hedge fund industry is finally growing up, TKS said. Their ad-hoc practices, more appropriate to a "mom and pop" shop than a sophisticated financial enterprise, are being replaced with a regulatory best practices framework and the expert systems used by their institutional counter parts.

TKS Solutions works with partners worldwide to serve its customer base of leading hedge funds, fund of funds, private equity firms, administrators and management companies, ranging from $50 million up to $20 billion under management.