Jack Bogle, the outspoken godfather of index funds and passive investing strategies, didn’t approve of a recent Wall Street Journal article defending hedge funds.
In particular, he took issue with the author’s reference to Benjamin Graham, the legendary Columbia finance professor who literally wrote the book on Security Analysis and mentored Warren Buffett.
Bogle wrote a letter to the editor. Here’s an excerpt:
Citing Benjamin Graham as the first “hedged fund” operator is an especially unfortunate example. “The trick,” Mr. Rice writes, was Graham’s “clever way to make money . . . whether it [the market] continued to rise, or started to fall.”
How did the hedged strategy work out in the bull market of the Roaring Twenties and thereafter? Thanks to Joe Carlen’s recent book, “The Einstein of Money,” we know the answer. Mr. Carlen carefully documents the returns earned in the “Benjamin Graham Joint Account” (the predecessor to Graham-Newman Corporation).
From 1929 through 1932 inclusive, the Graham account turned in a loss of 70%, compared to a loss of 64% for the S&P 500 Index. (Dividends are included in both cases.) “The strategy unravelled quickly,” Mr. Carlen writes. “There was no longer any reliable advantage to be gained from that kind of hedging.”
Some hedge fund manager.
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