Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Who Manages YU's Money?

Crain's reported today that YU restated its losses from $110 million to $14.5 million from the Madoff situation, citing incorrect information from Ezra Merkin of Ascot. Reading a bit further, however, shows that YU is still out all the money - merely that the rest of the $110m wasn't originally invested with Merkin/Madoff, but profits they thought they'd gained.

This raises even more questions, not less: Did YU believe it was earning some consistent outrageous percentage every single year, that a $14.5 million investment climbed to $110 million?! Unfortunately, the article doesn't say when the money was invested, but let's put it back as far as 10 years - for the money to have grown that much in that span of time, it would have had to average a 22+% gain every single year! It's hard enough to believe that people didn't catch Madoff's consistent 10%, but at least there he had "audited" financials and (fictional) data that backed up his returns.

If you're managing YU's endowments, and you have money invested through someone (Merkin, in this case), and he tells you that you're earning a huge percentage on your money every year, wouldn't you - even out of curiousity! - ask "Wow, that's amazing, how?!" Wouldn't you wonder if it was too good to be true at some point? Wouldn't you wonder how you're getting that percentage when even the fund it's invested in is only claiming 10-11% each year? And if you don't know that it's invested with Madoff, but think it's with Merkin, wouldn't you be taking a look at their financial statements and trying to figure out how they are up that percentage each year? Was Merkin's Ascot Partners even claiming to return those numbers each year?