Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Mila Getmansky Sherman

Second Advisor

Nikunj Kapadia

Third Advisor

Bing Liang

Subject Categories



Hedge funds feature special compensation structure compared to traditional investments. Previous studies mainly focus on the provisions and incentive structure of hedge fund contract, such as 2/20, hurdle rates, and high-water mark. The first essay develops an algorithm to empirically estimate the monthly fees, fund flows and gross asset values of individual hedge funds. We find that management fee is a major component in the dollar amount of hedge fund total fees, and fund flow is more important in determining the change in fund size compared to net returns, especially when fund is shrinking in size. We also find that best paid hedge funds concentrate in the largest hedge fund quintile. Large funds tend to perform better, earn more, and rely less on management fee for their managers' compensation. Further, we find that fund flow is an important determinant of hedge fund managerial incentives. Together with the "visible" hands of hedge fund management, i.e. the provisions of hedge fund incentive contracts, the "invisible" hands -- fund flows enable investors to effectively impact hedge fund managerial compensation and incentives. The second essay studies the relation between return smoothing and managerial incentives of hedge funds. We use gross returns to estimate both unconditional and conditional return smoothing models. While unconditional return smoothing is a proxy of illiquidity, conditional return smoothing is related to intentional return smoothing and may be used as a first screen for hedge fund fraud. We find that return smoothing is significantly underestimated using net returns, especially for the graveyard funds. We also find that managerial incentives are positively associated with both types of return smoothing. While managers of more illiquid funds tend to earn more incentive fees, funds featuring conditional return smoothing under-perform other funds and do not earn more incentive fees on average. Finally, we find that failed hedge funds feature more illiquidity and conditional return smoothing. The third essay explores the difference between the gross-of-fee and net-of-fee hedge fund performance, by investigating the difference in distribution, factor exposures and alphas between gross returns and net returns. We find that gross returns are distributed significantly differently from net returns. The gross-of-fee alphas are higher than the net-of-fee alphas by about 4% per year on average. We also find positive relation between hedge fund performance and fund size, fund flows, and managerial incentives, which holds for both gross-of-fee performance and net-of-fee performance. Our findings suggest that it is necessary to examine the gross-of-fee performance of hedge funds separately from the net-of-fee performance, which may give us a clearer picture of the risk structure and performance of hedge fund portfolios.

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