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Hedgeweek Comment: Less talk, more action

The collapse of a few hedge funds lately as a result of poor operational practices or even fraud has rekindled talk about best industry standards and self-policing among hedge funds and their industry bodies.

The failure of two hedge funds that was a harbinger of Bear Stearns' implosion and the reminders of the three-year-old Bayou hedge fund fraud are among the incidents that have put the industry on the back foot.

Now the New York Hedge Fund Roundtable has become the latest body seeking to establish professional standards to help the industry police itself, both to prevent future scandals and to head off greater external regulation. The five-year-old group says it plans to create an industry association that would create and enforce professional standards.

Stanley Goldstein, founder of the Hedge Fund Roundtable, has been quoted as saying: 'It's a great industry. We don't want to see it blown up because of a few bad guys.'

The organisation, which meets regularly to discuss industry issues, aims to create something along the lines of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Architects or the American Medical Association, hoping that peer pressure can do what voluntary codes have so far failed to achieve.

But let's get real. How many times have we heard industry bodies and regulators talk about codes of conduct and standards for the hedge fund industry? EU politicians, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other supervisors have all had their say; some organisations have gone further in drawing up codes of practice.

But simply due to the nature of hedge fund strategies, it is almost impossible to determine a single set of regulations that govern them all equally and effectively. Besides, many hedge funds are already subject to significant regulation and so are many managers.

What we now need is more enforcement of the standards that are already in place by those in a position to demand compliance - investors. The day that happens, perhaps industry participants will pay more attention.

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