Performance Perspectives Blog

Fraud & GIPS

by | Jan 4, 2010

A couple recent and related blog posts have addressed recent suggestions about the Oppenheimer College Fund Fraud investigation. The Money Game actually points to Mish’s site,  which is one that I have listed as a blog I periodically visit.

As Mish pointed out, this fund is alleged to be a hedge fund masquerading as a mutual fund. It appears that the firm also claims compliance with the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS(R)). While it isn’t clear, yet, whether or not they were also verified, we nevertheless must be concerned that yet another “GIPS compliant” firm may have committed fraud. The details have not been provided such that we can determine to the extent that this infraction may have run afoul of any specific GIPS rules (of course, the requirement to abide by laws would clearly be in conflict with GIPS).

What makes this case all the more interesting (and challenging) is that there are actually two firms that carry the name “Oppenheimer,” and both are located in New York City. They were apparently related at one time but no longer are. In addition, there are two funds with the same name! Talk about confusing.

I had the opportunity to speak with Mish last week about this topic. He explained (and noted as an addendum to his blog piece) that he pulled some earlier verbiage once he discovered the existence of the second firm.

One might think that these most recent problems might cause further discussion to ensue regarding a verifier’s role in detecting fraud. As has been stated previously, verification isn’t designed to detect fraud. In addition, we wouldn’t want this additional requirement to be placed on a verifier. BUT, we would hope that verifiers would be sensitive to things that just don’t look right.

This is one reason we don’t conduct remote verifications: we don’t believe a verifier can do an appropriate and adequate job by verifying a client from the comfort of the verifier’s offices. Sorry. I’ve suggested before that I believe that the GIPS Verification Subcommittee should at least encourage verifiers to spent a large portion of their time doing the verification in the client’s offices. Whether or not this will come to pass is, of course, open to speculation.