Monday, June 23, 2008

Buffett Bets Against Hedge Funds

Buffett bets a million S&P 500 will beat hedge fund
Buffett, as usual, is clear in his argument, which ends: “A number of smart people are involved in running hedge funds. But to a great extent their efforts are self-neutralising, and their IQ will not overcome the costs they impose on investors.

“Investors, on average and over time, will do better with a low-cost index fund than with a group of funds of funds.”


The details of the bet, which was taken on January 1 this year, were released by Carol Loomis, a friend of Buffett and senior editor at Fortune, in Monday’s issue of the magazine.

It is between Buffett (not Berkshire) and Protégé (the firm, not its funds). Each side has put up roughly $320000. The total funds were used to buy a zero-coupon t reasury bond that will be worth $1m at the bet’s conclusion.

That million will then go to charity. Protégé has put its money on five funds of hedge funds — specifically, the averaged returns that those vehicles deliver net of all fees, costs, and expenses. Buffett has wagered that the returns from a low-cost S&P 500 index fund sold by Vanguard will beat the results delivered by the five funds Protégé picked.

Both sides have agreed to disclose where the wager stands at Berkshire’s annual meeting every spring.

According to Loomis, “Buffett assesses his chances of winning at only 60%, which he grants is less of an edge than he usually likes to have. Protégé figures its own probabilities of winning at a heady 85%.

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