Bogus Private-Equity Fees Said Found at 200 Firms by SEC
By Bloomberg Businessweek
April 7, 2014
A majority of private-equity firms inflate fees and expenses charged to companies in which they hold stakes, according to an internal review by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, raising the prospect of a wave of sanctions by the agency.
More than half of about 400 private-equity firms that SEC staff have examined have charged unjustified fees and expenses without notifying investors, according to a person with knowledge of the SEC’s findings who asked not to be named because the results aren’t public. While some of the problems appear to have resulted from error, some may have been deliberate, the person said. …
The private-equity model lends itself to potential abuse because it’s so opaque, according to Daniel Greenwood, a law professor at Hofstra University in New York and author of a 2008 paper entitled “Looting: The Puzzle of Private Equity.” The attraction of the funds is that the managers have broad discretion, which also means that investors have a hard time knowing what the managers are doing, he said.
“The SEC and SEC enforcement can now see problems that probably existed all along and probably were actionable all along, but there was nobody to bring the action,” Greenwood said. “The big change has got to be the disclosure.”