Distorting Alpha: How Curated Past Performance Results Can Produce Misleading IRRs (Part Three of Three)

An unavoidable truth of the PE industry is that every sponsor, regardless of its size or acumen, has certain investments it would prefer not to highlight to prospective investors. The SEC’s recent enforcement efforts, however, remind sponsors to be careful not to bury or omit unfavorable investments in a way that could inflate their internal rates of return (IRRs) to mislead investors. This three-part series explores how these and other practices of PE sponsors when managing their funds or advertising their past performance can potentially skew the IRRs they report. This final article explores how certain curation techniques can distort the IRR of previous funds by masking or omitting certain poorly performing investments. The first article described the impact of deferring carry under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, as well as the ramifications on IRR calculations of omitting certain types of data. The second article highlighted certain fund strategies and daily management practices that can inherently inflate IRR figures. For more on marketing past performance, see “OCIE’s Recent Advertising Risk Alert: Identifying Advertisements and Common Deficiencies in Performance Advertising (Part One of Two)” (Jan. 4, 2018); and “Risk Alert Highlights Six Most Frequent Advertising Rule Compliance Issues” (Oct. 19, 2017).

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