CFA Conference: Post Compendium

CFAI have been live-blogging at the 67th CFA Institute Annual Conference here in Seattle. As before, I have been very gratified at the kind reception they have received. This post will act as a compendium of these posts so that you may find them in one convenient location. Links to the posts are provided below, with the most recent listed first.


CFA Conference: Simon Lack

CFAPutting Investors First: The Fallacy of Hedge Funds

Simon Lack, CFA, is founder of SL Advisors, LLC. Previously, he worked in North American fixed-income derivatives and forward foreign exchange trading for JPMorgan. Mr. Lack also sat on JPMorgan’s investment committee and founded JPMorgan Incubator Funds, two private equity vehicles that took economic stakes in emerging hedge fund managers. Currently, he chairs both the Investment Committee for Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison, NJ, and the Memorial Endowment Trust Investment Committee of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Westfield, NJ. Mr. Lack is the author of The Hedge Fund Mirage: The Illusion of Big Money and Why It’s Too Good to Be True and Bonds Are Not Forever: The Crisis Facing Fixed Income Investors. You may access the book summary for The Hedge Fund Miragevia getAbstract.

Key issues include the following.

  • How well have hedge fund investors really performed and why?
  • How should investors use hedge funds?
  • Why aren’t investors negotiating more favorable terms?

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The Tragedy of Errors

Lawn Chair LarryLarry Walters had always wanted to fly.  When he was old enough, he joined the Air Force, but his poor eyesight wouldn’t allow him to become a pilot. After he was discharged from the military, he would often sit in his backyard watching jets fly overhead, dreaming about flying and scheming about how to get into the sky. On July 2, 1982, the San Pedro, California trucker finally set out to accomplish his dream. But things didn’t turn out exactly as he planned.

Larry conceived his project while sitting outside in his “extremely comfortable” Sears lawn chair. He purchased weather balloons from an Army-Navy surplus store, tied them to his tethered Sears chair and filled the four-foot diameter balloons with helium. Then, after packing sandwiches, Miller Lite, a CB radio, a camera and a pellet gun, he strapped himself into his lawn chair (see above). His plan, such as it was, called for his floating lazily above the rooftops at about 30 feet for a while and then using the pellet gun to explode the balloons one-by-one so he could float to the ground.

But when his friends cut the cords that tethered the lawn chair to his Jeep, Walters and his lawn chair didn’t rise lazily. Larry shot up to a height of over 15,000 feet, yanked by the lift of 45 helium balloons holding 33 cubic feet of helium each.  He did not dare shoot any balloons, fearing that he might unbalance the load and cause a fall.  So he slowly drifted along, cold and frightened, with his beer and sandwiches, for more than 14 hours. He eventually crossed the primary approach corridor of LAX.  A flustered TWA pilot spotted Larry and radioed the tower that he was passing a guy in a lawn chair at 16,000 feet.

Eventually Larry conjured up the nerve to shoot several balloons before accidentally dropping his pellet gun overboard. The shooting did the trick and Larry descended toward Long Beach, until the dangling tethers got caught in a power line, causing an electrical blackout in the neighborhood below. Fortunately, Walters was able to climb to the ground safely from there.

The Long Beach Police Department and federal authorities were waiting. Regional safety inspector Neal Savoy said, “We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act, and as soon as we decide which part it is, some type of charge will be filed. If he had a pilot’s license, we’d suspend that. But he doesn’t.” As he was led away in handcuffs, a reporter asked Larry why he had undertaken his mission. The answer was simple and poignant. “A man can’t just sit around.” Continue reading