Comments on: Harvard datapoint of the day http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/ A slice of lime in the soda Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:02 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 By: ignorance arbitrage http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/comment-page-1/#comment-2267 Tue, 02 Jun 2009 01:48:08 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/#comment-2267 @jonathan…

First to conflate Yale and Harvard is not thinking properly– different situations since Harvard had a huge change in managers that affected their situation. Second, if Swensen were an awful, greedy s.o.b. like you suggest he would have bailed on Yale along time ago and made a lot more than his current salary. Is his compensation a lot? Yes, and he acknowledges it, but if he were as you suggested (just in it for a buck) he would have left Yale to go into Private Money Management and made a hell of a lot more. Additionally, his pay was significantly less than the pay of his Harvard peers…

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By: ignorance arbitrage http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/comment-page-1/#comment-2247 Mon, 01 Jun 2009 20:47:47 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/#comment-2247 I wish that commentators who wonder about the failure of Yale would look back at Felix’s other Harvard Datapoints– particularly his posts while at the other mag.

I discuss these posts in depth at:
http://ignorancearbitrage.blogspot.com

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By: jonathan http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/comment-page-1/#comment-2231 Mon, 01 Jun 2009 16:25:52 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/#comment-2231 There are many facets to this story. Two simple ones: the managers at Yale’s endowment – notably Swenson – developed the portfolio models for this diversification into illiquid assets. (I’ve been wondering lately if or when the shoe drops in New Haven.) And the typical finance side: the managers have been paid based on the appreciation, which has been reported each year, in those illiquid assets. Hmmmmm.

Seems to me a problem is right there on its face: that you reward investing in assets which can’t be adequately valued, which can’t be unwind – because they’re illiquid, duh – by paying large amounts of individual compensation in current terms. Again, the risk inherent in illiquid assets compares how to liquid assets?

This then raises a simple question: what would the portfolio allocations have looked like if the managers weren’t paid currently for assets that could not be converted currently? My guess is that Harvard would a) have more liquidity and b) not have lost as much.

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By: a http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/comment-page-1/#comment-2210 Mon, 01 Jun 2009 07:46:10 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/#comment-2210 Surely the funniest part of the article is when Summers intervened to lock in “low” rates of interest a few years back with some swaps, costing Harvard in the order of half a billion dollars to unwind them last year.

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By: dan k http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/comment-page-1/#comment-2207 Mon, 01 Jun 2009 04:45:06 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/#comment-2207 I hold a lot of my 401K in the S&P 500 (Vanguard). It dropped roughly 38% for the calendar year 2008. IF the Harvard folk were truly making 15% per year for the last 10, then this hit seems perfectly reasonable to me. My “diversified” holdings have not generated anywhere near that type of long term return.

Their mistake in context then, was to not plan for ANY down years, assuming that they could eliminate risk. That would have been the case with “safe” investments like T-bills, but those would have earned less than 5% most years.

But if earlier reports of their past performance are correct, then they still come out ahead in dollar terms with room to charge hefty fees:
Harvard portfolio with fat returns and one year fall: (1*1.15^9)*(1-.30)=2.46

Safe portfolio with consistent 5% annual return: (1*1.05^10)=1.63

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By: H55 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/comment-page-1/#comment-2202 Mon, 01 Jun 2009 00:47:51 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/#comment-2202 Sad to say Harvard’s Achilles Heel has long been a tendency toward arrogance born of a massive superiority complex. Like the geniuses who gave us the Long Term Capital debacle, Harvard Management managers simply took it for granted that they were smarter and more innovative than most investors. They were confident that they could generate excessive returns (they did) and avoid the consequences of exposure to excessive risk (they didn’t). Many alumni knew better, protested the outsize compensation and called for change – without much effect.

We see today what institutionalized self-satisfied arrogance has done for General Motors. While bankruptcy may be unlikely, Harvard’s future is one of permanently diminished promise and that is a sad prospect indeed.

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By: dWj http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/comment-page-1/#comment-2201 Mon, 01 Jun 2009 00:18:43 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/#comment-2201 dsquared mentions a “dual definition” for insolvency, and the law uses both in different contexts. Finance guys pretty much use the “negative net worth” meaning. The simple failure to pay debts — “equitable insolvency” — is grounds for involuntary bankruptcy, for example, while the net worth definition is used in the uniform fraudulent transfer act, and I believe in the requirement that a debtor be “involvent” before filing under chapter 9.

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By: dsquared http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/comment-page-1/#comment-2192 Sun, 31 May 2009 19:05:51 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/#comment-2192 Neil is right – there is a dual definition of insolvency for purposes of things like the wrongfully trading while insolvent legislation. If you can’t meet your debts as they fall due, you’re insolvent.

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By: neil http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/comment-page-1/#comment-2185 Sun, 31 May 2009 17:35:35 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/#comment-2185 Er no, actually, it’s the definition of insolvency. Insolvency is the inability to pay your debts as they come due. In other words, you owe money to creditors but “you’re out of cash.” Your portfolio can be so illiquid that it can’t generate enough cash to pay your debts as they come due, but running out of cash is still fundamentally insolvency. That’s a basic concept that you might want to nail down.

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By: Lee Gibson http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/comment-page-1/#comment-2182 Sun, 31 May 2009 16:50:01 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2009/05/31/harvard-datapoint-of-the-day/#comment-2182 I’d like to know Mohamed El-Erian’s role in this situation. He’s all over TV theorizing about “The New Normal” and talking PIMCO’s book. I’ve had quite a bit of respect for him heretofore, but that might change. How come I never hear his name in any of these stories?

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