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Latest Issue

There Is No Alternative

April 19, 2024

Today, we look at the world of “alternative investing.” I put it in quotes because this was originally a somewhat pejorative term. Back in the 1960s (and maybe before?), brokers sold you stocks and bonds, saying that was how smart people invested. Of course, by pure coincidence, they sold these securities at markups and commissions that would choke a horse by today’s standards.

If you didn’t buy what they sold, they would say you were buying an inferior choice. Like commodities. Or mutual funds. Except mutual funds that brokers sold were also smart investments, with 4–5% fees.

Hedge funds, you were told, were risky alternative investments. For the rich. With high minimums. And in the 1980s and into the 1990s and early 2000s, that was more or less true. But the world changed. “Alternative” is a useful term now, so we will use it.

I became involved in the “alternative” space in the early 1990s as a partner in what the Managed Funds Association later called “the first low-cost public commodity fund.” It was not low cost by today’s standards, but by comparison. Other, similar funds were charging as much as 20–25%. Not a typo.

Then, in the 2000s, I started really focusing on hedge funds, helping pioneer access to “retail” investors with $1,000,000 net worth and up. I testified to Congress about private funds and access for all investors. I have often thought that if you said certain funds were not available to [pick a minority group], there would be a protest a mile long. But...

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