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Research Roundup

For the more academically-inclined reader, here is a brief rundown of recent academic papers we have found interesting. As these are written by others, we do not necessarily agree with or stand by all of their points, so caveat emptor.

Trading Volatility: At What Cost?: The inventor of the original VIX, Robert Whaley, weighs in on volatility exchange-traded products, which he says are "virtually guaranteed to lose money through time." See also our papers on the subject.

Lapse-Based Insurance:...

SEC Litigation Releases: Week in Review - December 2nd, 2013

SEC Charges Weatherford International with FCPA Violations
November 26, 2013, (Litigation Release No. 22880)
According to the complaint, oilfield services company Weatherford International violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by "authorizing bribes and improper travel and entertainment for foreign officials in the Middle East and Africa to win business, including kickbacks in Iraq to obtain United Nations Oil-for-Food contracts." The company allegedly earned more than "$59.3 million in...

BDCs as the New REITs

Brendan Conway at Barrons had an interesting piece back in September about business development companies (BDCs) and their similarities to real estate investment trusts (REITs). His story highlighted that BDCs in some sense resemble REITs in the 1990s, in that they are considered "previously exotic areas that went mainstream." Indeed, we are seeing more and more coverage of BDCs in the mainstream media, along with the troubling development of non-traded BDCs, just as we have seen non-traded...

Monte Carlo Simulation, Explained

Valuing products with exotic derivatives can be difficult since these products typically have complex payoff formulas. One of the most flexible methods for valuing such products is called Monte Carlo simulation. At SLCG, we use Monte Carlo simulation in a lot of our work, so we thought it would be helpful to explain a bit about it and show how it can be used to estimate the future returns of an asset.

The basic idea behind Monte Carlo simulation is to determine the statistical properties...

SEC Litigation Releases: Week in Review - November 22nd, 2013

Court Enters Final Judgment by Consent Against SEC Defendant Corey Ribotsky
November 21, 2013, (Litigation Release No. 22873)
A final judgment was entered against Corey Ribotsky who, along with The NIR Group, LLC, allegedly made "false statements to investors regarding the poor performance and trading strategy of the various AJW Funds he managed" during the financial crisis. Ribotsky also allegedly "misappropriated client assets and misled investors about the decision to form the AJW Master...

Variable Annuity Fees Linked to the VIX -- Part II

In our last post, we discussed a whitepaper that proposed linking the fees in a variable annuity to the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX). That paper ran a simple backtest of a variable annuity fee tied to the VIX over the period from 1990-2012, assuming certain parameters, and then compared the result to a fixed fee annuity over the same period. We have replicated their approach between January 1990 and January 2013 and found that not only are the fees and ending account values comparable, but so...

Variable Annuity Fees Linked to the VIX -- Part I

We've discussed the CBOE Volatility Index -- known as the VIX-- many times before. Essentially, the VIX is a very complex calculation of the expected future variance of the S&P 500 (see the full calculation methodology), and is popularly known as the 'investor fear gauge'. The VIX is not a tradeable asset, but there are VIX options and futures contracts, and those contracts serve as the basis for several VIX-related exchange-traded products (TVIX, XIV, VXXto name a few). The VIX is very...

SEC Litigation Releases: Week in Review - November 15th, 2013

Court Orders Charles T. Lawrence to Comply with Commission Subpoena
November 13, 2013, (Litigation Release No. 22869)
This week, the Court ordered Charles T. Lawrence to "to comply with an investigative subpoena previously served on him and relating to his formerly registered investment adviser, Chasson Group." According to a previous litigation release, the SEC's application alleges that in April of this year, "the SEC issued a Formal Order Directing Private Investigation entitled In the...

How Does VolDex Stack Up to the VIX?

We've talked a lot about the idea of using volatility to hedge equity exposure. The basic finding, from our research work and that of others, is that the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) hedges the S&P 500 fairly well. Unfortunately, the VIX is not investable, but is a complicated calculation based on a large strip of options contracts -- i.e., contracts of varying moneyness. Proxies for the VIX, such as rolling VIX futures strategies, are much worse hedges and have a number of problems that make...

Athlete-Backed Securities and Credit Risk

The financial media has been abuzz about Fantex, a brokerage firm that is offering investments linked to the earnings of professional athletes. Their first offering was linked to 20% of the future earnings of Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, and the second was for a 10% interest in the future earnings of San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.*At first, the plan was met with some skepticism (and some ridicule), which was only magnified when last Sunday both Foster and Davis...

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