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Tournament Behavior in Hedge Funds: High-water Marks, Fund Liquidation, and Managerial Stake


  • George O. Aragon
  • Vikram Nanda


We analyze whether risk shifting by a hedge fund manager is related to the manager's incentive contract, personal capital stake, and the risk of fund closure. We find that the propensity to increase risk following poor performance is significantly weaker when incentive pay is tied to the fund's high-water mark and when funds face little immediate risk of liquidation. Risk shifting is also less prevalent when a manager has a significant amount of personal capital invested in the fund. Overall, high-water mark provisions, managerial stake, and low risk of fund closure appear to make a hedge fund manager more conservative with regard to risk shifting. The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Society for Financial Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail:, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • George O. Aragon & Vikram Nanda, 2012. "Tournament Behavior in Hedge Funds: High-water Marks, Fund Liquidation, and Managerial Stake," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 25(3), pages 937-974.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:rfinst:v:25:y:2012:i:3:p:937-974

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    Cited by:

    1. Ewald, Christian-Oliver & Zhang, Hai, 2016. "Hedge fund seeding via fees-for-seed swaps under idiosyncratic risk," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 45-59.
    2. Lan, Yingcong & Wang, Neng & Yang, Jinqiang, 2013. "The economics of hedge funds," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(2), pages 300-323.
    3. Servaes, Henri & Sigurdsson, Kari, 2018. "The costs and benefits of performance fees in mutual funds," CEPR Discussion Papers 13399, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Li, Ying & Holland, A. Steven & Kazemi, Hossein B., 2019. "Duration of poor performance and risk shifting by hedge fund managers," Global Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 35-47.
    5. Jongha Lim & Berk A. Sensoy & Michael S. Weisbach, 2016. "Indirect Incentives of Hedge Fund Managers," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 71(2), pages 871-918, April.
    6. G. Elaut & M. Frömmel & J. Sjödin, 2014. "Crystallization – the Hidden Dimension of Hedge Funds' Fee Structure," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 14/872, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
    7. Aiken, Adam L. & Kilic, Osman & Reid, Sean, 2016. "Can hedge funds time global equity markets? Evidence from emerging markets," Review of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 2-11.
    8. Gao, Lei & Wang, Ying & Zhao, Jing, 2017. "Does local religiosity affect organizational risk-taking? Evidence from the hedge fund industry," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 1-22.
    9. Jiao, Yawen & Massa, Massimo & Zhang, Hong, 2016. "Short selling meets hedge fund 13F: An anatomy of informed demand," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(3), pages 544-567.
    10. Paolo Guasoni & Jan Obłój, 2016. "The Incentives Of Hedge Fund Fees And High-Water Marks," Mathematical Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(2), pages 269-295, April.
    11. Mila Getmansky & Peter A. Lee & Andrew W. Lo, 2015. "Hedge Funds: A Dynamic Industry In Transition," NBER Working Papers 21449, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Agarwal, Vikas & Ruenzi, Stefan & Weigert, Florian, 2017. "Tail risk in hedge funds: A unique view from portfolio holdings," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 125(3), pages 610-636.
    13. Jiao, Yawen & Massa, Massimo & Zhang, Hong, 2015. "Short Selling Meets Hedge Fund 13F: An Anatomy of Informed Demand," CEPR Discussion Papers 10471, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    14. Serge Darolles & Christian Gouriéroux, 2013. "The Effects of Management and Provision Accounts on Hedge Fund Returns - Part I : The High Water Mark Scheme," Working Papers 2013-22, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    15. Cumming, Douglas & Dai, Na & Johan, Sofia, 2015. "Are hedge funds registered in Delaware different?," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 232-246.

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