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Beware of Venturing into Private Equity

  • Ludovic Phalippou

As a step towards understanding whether a private equity governance structure reduces overall agency conflicts relative to a public equity governance structure (as is often argued), this paper describes the contracts between private equity funds and investors, and the returns earned by investors. The paper sets the stage with a puzzle: the average performance of private equity funds is above that of the Standard and Poor's 500 - the main public stock market index - before fees are charged, but below that benchmark after fees are charged. Why are the payments to private equity buyout funds so large? Why does the marginal investor invest in buyout funds? I explore one potential answer (and probably the most controversial): that some investors are fooled. I show that the fee contracts for these funds are opaque. Considering this and the way that compensation contracts bury, in details, costly provisions that are difficult to justify on the basis of proper incentive alignment, it would be premature to assert that the agency conflicts are lower in private equity than in public equity.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.23.1.147
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 23 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
Pages: 147-66

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:23:y:2009:i:1:p:147-66
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.23.1.147
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  1. Josh Lerner & Antoinette Schoar & Wan Wong, 2005. "Smart Institutions, Foolish Choices? The Limited Partner Performance Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 11136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Lee, Peggy M. & Wahal, Sunil, 2004. "Grandstanding, certification and the underpricing of venture capital backed IPOs," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 375-407, August.
  3. Malkiel, Burton G, 1995. " Returns from Investing in Equity Mutual Funds 1971 to 1991," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 50(2), pages 549-72, June.
  4. Driessen, Joost & Lin, Tse-Chun & Phalippou, Ludovic, 2012. "A New Method to Estimate Risk and Return of Nontraded Assets from Cash Flows: The Case of Private Equity Funds," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(03), pages 511-535, August.
  5. Alexander Ljungqvist & Matthew Richardson, 2003. "The cash flow, return and risk characteristics of private equity," NBER Working Papers 9454, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Eric Zitzewitz, 2006. "How Widespread Was Late Trading in Mutual Funds?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 284-289, May.
  7. Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1995. "A Survey of Corporate Governance," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1741, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  8. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2005. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," NBER Working Papers 11755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Kaplan, Steve & Schoar, Antoinette, 2004. "Private Equity Performance: Returns, Persistence and Capital Flows," Working papers 4446-03, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  10. William Fung & David A. Hsieh & Narayan Y. Naik & Tarun Ramadorai, 2008. "Hedge Funds: Performance, Risk, and Capital Formation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 63(4), pages 1777-1803, 08.
  11. José-Miguel Gaspar & Massimo Massa & Pedro Matos, 2006. "Favoritism in Mutual Fund Families? Evidence on Strategic Cross-Fund Subsidization," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(1), pages 73-104, 02.
  12. Jennifer S. Conrad, 2001. "Institutional Trading and Soft Dollars," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(1), pages 397-416, 02.
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