Whitney Tilson is the founder and Managing Partner of Kase Capital Management, which manages three value-oriented hedge funds. Mr. Tilson is also the co-founder of Value Investor Insight, an investment newsletter.
Mr. Tilson has co-authored two books, The Art of Value Investing: How the World's Best Investors Beat the Market (2013) and More Mortgage Meltdown: 6 Ways to Profit in These Bad Times (2009), was one of the authors of Poor Charlie’s Almanack, the definitive book on Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, and has written for Forbes, the Financial Times, Kiplinger’s, the Motley Fool and TheStreet.com. He was featured in two 60 Minutes segments in December 2008 about the housing crisis (which won an Emmy) and in March 2015 about Lumber Liquidators. He served for two years on the Board of Directors of Cutter & Buck, which designs and markets upscale sportswear, until the company was sold in early 2007.
Mr. Tilson received an MBA with High Distinction from the Harvard Business School, where he was elected a Baker Scholar (top 5% of class), and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, with a bachelor’s degree in Government.
Mr. Tilson spent much of his childhood in Tanzania and Nicaragua (his parents are both educators, were among the first couples to meet and marry in the Peace Corps, and have retired in Kenya). Consequently, Mr. Tilson is involved with a number of charities focused on education reform and Africa. For his philanthropic work, he received the 2008 John C. Whitehead Social Enterprise Award from the Harvard Business School Club of Greater New York. He is a member and past Chairman of the Manhattan chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Mr. Tilson lives in Manhattan with his wife and three teenage daughters.
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As a web analyst, developer and SEO, I have worked with Dr. Jon M. Taylor, Robert FitzPatrick and other pyramid scheme experts and consumer advocates including Dave Ritchie, Bruce Craig and Douglas Brooks. See http://mlmpetition.com
On his thought-provoking Blog, 'MLM: The American Dream Made Nightmare,' Englishman, David Brear, author of 'The Universal Identifying Characteristics of a Cult,' guides us to the dark heart of a modern-day, totalitarian labyrinth and shines a piercing light on its manipulative rulers and manipulated inhabitants. First, he provides a spool of unbreakable thread so that we can all find our way safely home.
I am a retired investor with market experience going back to the 1960s. I was a software engineer for 42 years, and currently do some part-time consulting, which lets me contribute to a Roth IRA. I am not an accountant and not a financial professional.
My wife and I have established a set of guiding principles for our investment life:
• Change is the only constant in life. Everything in this plan is subject to change.
• Never touch your principal. Wealth is built and maintained by not spending it. Wealth is the primary buffer between ourselves and blind chance.
• Exploit folly, do not participate in it (thank you, Chuck Carnevale). Do not follow the crowd, which is more often than not wrong.
• A portfolio is like a bar of soap – the more you touch it, the smaller it becomes. Do not be a trader.
• Own assets, avoid liabilities. Assets generate income. Liabilities generate expenses.
Based on these principles, we have established two investing goals: 1) sufficient current income with a comfortable buffer, and 2) increasing future income to maintain our buffer.
Our primary investing goal is to generate sufficient current income to cover that part of our living expenses not covered by pensions, with a comfortable buffer. We are retired and depend on investment income to meet a significant minority of our living expenses.
As we age and get closer to the end, current income becomes ever more valuable, and future income becomes ever less valuable. This reality informs all of our investing decisions. However, we know that inflation will cause our income needs to rise, so we also plan for increased future income, which is our second investing goal.
To meet our current and future income needs, we rely on 2 Social Security pensions, 1 private pension, a consulting retainer, income generated by investments, and fully paid up long term care insurance.
It is common to allocate a retirement investment portfolio with some percentage in stocks and the balance in fixed income, such as 60/40. We look upon our pension income as the equivalent of fixed income, with the added benefit that Social Security is indexed to the CPI. In the past we owned no fixed income and had no plans to do so in the future. The future has arrived and we have discovered baby bonds and preferred stocks, and we like the higher current income we can get from these investments. We have therefore started to redirect some of our investment capital into these investments, and as a result our investment income is now greater than it would have been otherwise.
We categorize dividends and interest as income, and capital gains as return of capital, not income. Therefore, our goals are to be met from dividends and interest only.
Investment income currently meets our primary investing goal. We invest in a blend of mostly medium yield (3%-6%) stocks with medium dividend growth, a few high yield (>6%) stocks with no dividend growth, low yield (<3%) stocks with high dividend growth, and fixed income securities with yields in the range of 5%-8% with no growth.
We expect our medium yield and low yield stocks to provide the income growth needed for the future, our second investing goal.
We currently own common stocks, preferred stocks, and bonds. Our portfolio requires regular attention to avoid possible dividend cuts and deletions. As we age, our mental faculties are in decline, and we will become increasingly less able to perform portfolio monitoring intelligently. There will come a time when we will need to use some form of income oriented index ETFs to carry the income generating burden.
We want to behave like landlords and collect rents, but without the risks and demands of owning real estate directly. Dividends and interest are our rental income, and as once-removed landlords we expect to own real estate investment trusts (REITs).
We want our non REIT income to be generated by long-lived, steady companies that provide products and services that we all need regardless of the economy, and thus can be relied upon to provide steady, and steadily growing, income. This requirement points primarily at consumer staples stocks. We own some of the best consumer staples stocks, such as mighty MO, and plan to own one or more ETFs that concentrate on the consumer staples sector of the S&P 500. Our preferred shares are mostly in the REIT sector, with the major exception of the CHS preferreds (CHSCL etc).
• Some of my investing history
During much of my working years I used technical analysis (TA) to invest in individual stocks (I was an early fan of Joseph Granville and I bought an Apple II in 1980 because Granville brought out OBV software for the Apple at that time), and I speculated with short selling and commodity trading. Those were not the best investing decisions I ever made. Later I invested in stock mutual funds and ETFs for total return, with inconsistent results, and no comprehensive plan. Being a software engineer in a lead position left little time or energy for serious investing skills development. In 2005 I had pretty much given up on getting market beating results, and felt that I was getting too old and too close to retirement to continue swinging for the fences, so I decided to buy a variable annuity that guaranteed a minimum return of 6% per year, compounded, with the upside limited only by the performance of the mutual funds offered for investment. I decided to let the insurance company bear the market risk for me. I also had a 401k plan at work to which I contributed the maximum and got the company match. A year or so before 2008 I used a retirement investing projection tool provided by Fidelity, which said the worst returns I could expect in retirement were positive but not spectacular, and the best were indeed spectacular. At that time I was invested in mutual funds and ETFs through my 401k and the variable annuity and had not directly owned stocks since shortly before the start of the great bull market in 1982 (Granville famously missed the whole thing). I thought, with a bit of skepticism but not much, that I was set. We all know what happened in 2008-09. That experience put me off Monte Carlo simulations and Modern Portfolio Theory for life.
When I retired I converted my 401k to a rollover IRA brokerage account and invested in ETFs. I thought I was being appropriately conservative but also ready to capture capital gains by investing in VIG and VCSH.
Then I found Seeking Alpha, and then - thank my lucky stars - David Van Knapp, and the DGI light went on. I had spent most of my adult life thinking I was smarter than most people by relying on TA, and then later letting the insurance company assume market risk. I remember learning about the 200 DMA when I was in my 20s, which is a long time ago, and thinking how revolutionary this idea was and how I should be able to use it to my advantage. Fortunately for me and my family, I also was pretty good at software engineering, so I had a reasonable retirement nest egg accumulated when the time came. With the concepts and methodology of dividend growth investing, and more recently REITs, I now have sleep well at night investments that just keep on churning out increasing income, something that could never be said about using TA.
I started with DGI too late in life to commit totally to low yield, high growth stocks. I hope to capture the double compounding of DRiP investing with that part of my portfolio that is low yield, high growth.
We have recently (Nov 2014) rolled over all of the variable annuities into brokerage accounts. We now believe that we can get sufficient income from our dividend investing strategy, and we want to retain ownership of the annuity capital.
• Tools and Teachers
Tools I use include the CCC list, F.A.S.T. Graphs, Morningstar Premium, the EDGAR web site, and Excel. I get ideas from the many informative articles by (among others) the following (in no particular order): Bill Stoller, Chuck Carnevale, Brad Thomas, Ron Hiram, David Van Knapp, David Fish, Robert Allan Schwartz, Dividend Growth Investor, Dividends4Life, David Crosetti, Tim McAleenan Jr., Reel Ken, Bret Jensen, Alan Brochstein, Chowder, Dane Bowler, Bob Wells, BDC Buzz, Scott Kennedy, Bill Maurer, Darren McCammon, Richard Shaw, Bruce Miller, Preferred Stock Trader, Norman Roberts. Favorite commentators who are not yet authors include Elliot Miller, Paul Leibowitz, mbkelly75, surfgeezer.
I use FAST Graphs heavily for valuation research. Since my pivot toward REITs, FAST Graphs has done a similar pivot. I never consider an investment before first consulting FAST Graphs. Thank you Chuck.
The best investment advice outside of Seeking Alpha have been 'The Intelligent Investor', ‘Securities Analysis’, and 'The Single Best Investment'.
• Some historical portfolio stuff
My DGI portfolio was started on 2011/4/20 with CTL, which I have since sold. It was a beginner's mistake. Subsequent mistakes were MLPs, and to a lesser extent, mortgage REIT common. I did not allow for any circumstance that could cause WTI to fall as far and as fast as it has, so I lost money on MLPs. The prolonged flattening of the yield curve, plus the persistent markdown from NAV for the mortgage REIT commons, has made these unappealing as long term investments. Now I keep my distance from anything that is dependent on commodity pricing, and I invest very carefully in the carry trade. A glaring mistake was selling JNJ when it languished for several years.
Subsequent to my disenchantment with mortgage REIT common, I discovered mortgage REIT preferreds, along with preferreds and baby bonds in general. I have decided that mREIT preferreds are a reliable source of steady income and I own some.
• Some ongoing portfolio stuff
The target dividend growth rate for our entire portfolio was formerly 5%. With our pivot to higher current income at the expense of higher future income, this target is not realistic, and I now hope for 3-4% growth.
I use yield on cost to allocate our investments so that each position in aggregate generates approximately the same amount of income. I learned the basic methodology from a comment on a SA article. SA is a wonderful resource! I have published an SA Instablog that describes the method: http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/902946-be-here-now/4581516-portfolio-allocation-for-equal-income-from-each-position-using-excel
• Current portfolio:
equity REIT: we recently sold some of our health care REITs in favor of data center REITs, which leaves us with: CONE, DFT, DLR, EPR, LTC, NSA, O, OHI, STAG, WPC
consumer staples: we recently sold our positions in most consumer staples to invest in preferreds with much higher current yields, leaving the one stock that should never be sold: MO
financial: GBDC, GSBD, HTGC, MAIN, TCPC
baby bonds: HTGX, NEWTL, TCCA, TPVZ
preferred: AGNCB, AGNCP, AHT-F, AHT-G, CHSCL, CYS-B, DFT-C, DLR-F, GAB-G, GGZ-A, HT-D, LXP-C, MNR-C, NLY-C, STAG-B, VER-F
Prospective additions: none currently; I plan to buy more CHSCL at the right price
I have no expertise in investment markets. However, I have spent more than six years researching MLM full-time — at first to find any reason to stay on board with a cherished domestic partner who was fully immersed in MLM and it's culture. My research consisted of reading a lot of others' unrefuted primary research and running theoretical simulations based on MLM structure and function. In all cases, I discovered that starting an MLM or succeeding in one can only be done with a great deal of deception and unfair practices.
The deceptions are deniable unless they're carefully analyzed; and advances in technology are exposing the unfairness essential to the survival of every MLM. Sadly, my research revealed enough for me to realize that my domestic partner and I had been involved in deception and unfairness for more than eight years. By then, she had become so immersed in the culture that she couldn't recognize the inherent fraud; and the ensuing values conflict between us culminated in our mutual choice to part ways.
My objective is to dissuade others from becoming collateral victims of MLM fraud. SA's broad reach and its commitment to the public good has provided an important platform for that purpose.
Having a front-row seat for watching Herbalife lead the way as the first publicly-traded MLM to crash and burn is an added bonus.
I have worked in the financial service industry for 40 years. My area of expertise is risk management and complex financial products. I have been a frequent speaker, on behalf of many financial firms, to financial professionals across the country.
I have extensive experience in statistics and actuarial science.
I spent my professional life – more than 45 years – working for and with large well-known investment management and investment banking firms. I’ve served at various times as an analyst, portfolio manager, senior investment executive, senior business executive and corporate director. On the buy side, the firms I worked for managed and sold mutual funds to retail investors and separate account investment management in a broad array of investment disciplines to large pension, endowment, public employee and other institutional investors. On the sell side, I’ve been associated with a substantial investment bank offering corporate finance, M&A and institutional research to corporate clients.
I spent many years as Chairman of the Investment Committee of a large non-profit. Our portfolio was invested globally and my Committee’s responsibilities included hiring (and, occasionally, firing) consulting and portfolio performance measurement firms and, more importantly, hiring (and, more than occasionally, firing) institutional investment managers who managed portions of our overall portfolio. We used both active and passive managers.
My personal approach to investing is based on my professional experiences. A few of a very large list of guiding principles are:
• There is only one relevant measure of investment performance. It is the risk-adjusted performance of an overall portfolio compared to its pre-established benchmark over a reasonable period of time. Most plan sponsors will not hire a manager with a performance record shorter than 5 years. After hiring a manager, they look at performance on much shorter time frames. Portfolios that generate profits – but less than their benchmarks – are failures.
• Generating Alpha is the sine qua non of professional active investment managers and their clients. It is incredibly difficult to achieve, especially after transaction and management fees are included.
• Passive (i.e. index) portfolios don’t care about Alpha. Typically they care about “Tracking Error”. Passive funds have tiny costs (“friction”) so they can get very close to zero tracking error. But, as long as they trade at all or charge any fees at all or run the portfolio by sampling or need to rebalance because of cash flows in or out the tracking error will never actually reach zero.
• For most people and institutions – including me – the path to investment success is to focus hard on asset allocation, then buy low cost/low tracking error index funds for each of the categories you choose. On the other hand, everyone knows, especially people who read Seeking Alpha, researching and buying/shorting individual stocks or -- at the institutional level -- hiring or firing active managers is much more fun!
• Personally, I drink my own Kool-Aid. About 90% of my portfolio is invested using low cost index funds to execute on a carefully considered asset allocation focused on multiple broad sectors of worldwide markets. I rebalance about annually. But, I spend a wildly disproportionate amount of time researching and investing (long or short) in typically less than a handful of stocks I find interesting, and I do each one with enough money that I really care about how it works out.
• John Bogle was right. Years ago he created Vanguard on the principle that expense ratios matter. In aggregate, all investors' activities add up to average, by definition. And, it is unbelievably difficult to be above average.
• Relatedly... • In today’s usage, a “Hedge Fund” is generally a misnomer. When they were originally created, hedge funds had specific investment objectives and styles. Today, the closest style to a real "hedge fund" would be describes as "long/short equity". In today’s usage, “Hedge Fund” refers to a pricing structure. It is applied to any fund with any objective invested in any assets that is organized as a limited partnership and charges clients both a management fee and a carried interest in realized profits. These days, the management fee is ausually 1-1/2 to 2%, plus a carried interest for the manager, typically about 20%. The shorthand for the pricing structure is “2 and 20” or "1-1/2 and 20". In earlier days 1/15 was more common. This explanation is this profile because it is my view that it is unbelievably difficult, as a client, to earn an above average return when paying such enormous fees. But, plan sponsors continue to do it – so maybe I’m wrong.
• I have never met (or even heard of) a short-term trader who has had more than momentary success. Individuals engaged in short-term trading (vs investing) who claim long-term success have selective memories – eagerly talking about their winners and forgetting about their losers – and have never subjected their long term investment record to mathematical analysis. Institutional firms can't get away with that as they need to publish all their performance numbers.
• Similarly, I have never met (or even heard of) a professional or individual investor who has had long-term success by market-timing.
• Investing is fundamentally a batting average game. Long term, the best – not the average, but the best – professional institutional investors are successful on their individual stock picks around 55% of the time. Of course, that means they are unsuccessful about 45% of the time.
• I drink that Kool-Aid too. When I buy or short individual stocks, I do careful research first. Once I've made an investment, I spend almost all my time focusing on factors that could prove I’m wrong!
• When it comes to investments, I am a classic “on the other hand” thinker, and, therefore, please understand that everything I write on SA is caveated with the ending quote from any of Dennis Miller’s famous rants: "...of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong."
• Enormous self-confidence – almost arrogance – and, at the same time, enormous humility are required to be successful as an active investor! You have to have serious conviction about an investment to put up your money. But, deep down you have to remember that, by definition, investing and the future are uncertain.
• Money moves markets. Bull markets are most often driven by loose monetary and fiscal policies. Bear markets are most often driven by tight monetary and fiscal policies.
• Too much leverage stretching for extra return has caused every major financial crisis I’ve ever lived through or studied.
• Flexibility is a hallmark of great investors.
• It really IS true that Past Performance Does Not Guarantee Future Results.
• There are innumerable investment-oriented aphorisms and maxims that I believe have just enough truth in them that I repeat them when appropriate. Here is a very tiny sample:
o Don’t confuse wisdom with a bull market.
o Don’t fight the tape.
o Don’t fight the Fed.
o Most of the time, the market -- especially in big stocks -- is right.
o It's good to be right for the right reasons, but it's more important to be right.
o The first rule of making money is: don't to lose it! After a loss (realized or not) the mathematics of breaking even are daunting. If you lose 50% on an investment, you have to make a 100% gain on that or something else just to break even. If you lose just 33% on something, that, or something else, has to go up by 50% to break even.
o More money has been lost in the search for high yield (or return) than in all the financial scandals in history.
o Sometimes, the return OF principal is much more important than the return ON principal.
o Bulls make money and Bears make money, but Pigs get slaughtered.
There are lots and lots more of these!
All of the opinions and perspectives I express on Seeking Alpha are my own and in no way reflect the opinions or perspectives of any business with which I am currently associated.
I am retired from international and investment banking. I have over 40 year experience in international commerce, foreign exchange, money markets, fixed income securities trading, securities financing, asset/ liability management, balance sheet planning before and after the Basel accords, risk management, audit, operations. I worked in Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, London, and the longest time, in Chicago and New York. I am now a private small scale equity trader and like to keep abreast of the market sentiments.
I am looking for quality input on SA and usually find excellent comments on the technical and business specific side of things. Unfortunately I find many misconceptions on how the general market works, balance sheet mechanics, hedging, the responsibilities of market participants etc.
Btw: my handle is the German word for Steam Engine, therefore please do not abbreviate!
Consultant in the economics of renewable energy retrofitting - moving energy from liabilities to assets. Passionate student of the business scene, particularly commodities, currently not an active investor. Author, translator, blogger. Trading experience is more commodities than stocks.
I used to run industrial companies. Now I work in the technology sector. I draw on my business experience to make smart investment decisions for my own portfolio.
More details at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Volgin
Bruce Craig is an attorney, He lives in New York City with his wife after moving from Madison, Wisconsin in 2000. He retired from the Wisconsin Department of Justice in 1997, after 30 years of service, in the capacity of Assistant Attorney General and served, of counsel, with a Madison law firm for two years thereafter. His primary responsibility at the Wisconsin Department of Justice was as a litigating attorney in its Office of Consumer Protection, duties included a number of cases against pyramid schemes. He was also involved in anti-trust litigation and in the area of criminal appeals. While in New York he has volunteered with the New York Legal Assistance Group, the New York Attorney General's office, and with the Attorney General's project at Columbia Law School. He is presently inactive as a volunteer, but has been active on Seeking Alpha and other forums dealing with the subject of pyramid schemes.
Robert L. FitzPatrick is an expert in examining and revealing deception and fraud in Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes and bogus home-based businesses. He is an internationally recognized authority in multi-level marketing schemes and pyramid sales fraud. Robert FitzPatrick is not an investor in multi-level marketing companies. He has never owned and never plans to own stocks of multi-level marketing companies. He does not offer investment advice and he is not an attorney.
He is co-author of False Profits, the first book to critically examine the recent rise in pyramid and Ponzi schemes in home-based businesses. He was featured on NBC Dateline, ABC World News, and he was interviewed by correspondent Mike Wallace on CBS 60 Minutes. He has been interviewed live on NBC Today show, Canada's CBC National News, Christian Broadcasting Network, and on several BBC radio news programs aired in the UK. He has been quoted in many newspapers around the world, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
In 2012, False Profits will be published in Mandarin by Nanjiing University Press. The booklet, Pyramid Nation by Robert FitzPatrick, has been translated to Chinese and used by government regulators in writing China's first laws on pyramid schemes. His essay, "The 10 Big Lies of Multi-Level Marketing", has been translated into four languages and posted on numerous websites. His White Paper, "The Main Street Bubble", which details the extensive influence-buying of the direct selling industry and in the failure of federal regulators to protect consumers from pyramid marketing fraud has been read by staff circulated among members of Congress.
In June 2005, Robert FitzPatrick was asked by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to address banking representatives from that country as well as India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo. The presentation was later published as part of a consumer education campaign against pyramid and Ponzi schemes.
Robert FitzPatrick was a featured speaker at the 2006 annual meeting in San Francisco of the Association of Certified Fraud Specialists. He has developed informational resources for consumers, journalists, academics and regulators including a multi-media PowerPoint presentation and a statistical analysis of the losses suffered by participants in pyramid selling schemes. He also published a widely read booklet on the landmark federal case brought against the Amway Corporation.
He is a expert network member of GLG Research, and Coleman Research Group, as well as other networks of experts who are referred to clients for consultation, speaking and report writing. In this capacity, he has provided expert consultation to financial many analysts who sought information about multi-level marketing companies and pyramid and Ponzi schemes.
Robert FitzPatrick co-founded and serves as president of Pyramid Scheme Alert, the first international organization to expose and prevent pyramid scheme fraud. He personally responds to hundreds of consumer and news media inquiries. He has served as consultant and expert witness for Attorney General or State Attorney offices in four states, the US Dept. of Justice, and in numerous cases involving distributor fraud and pyramid schemes.
Chris DeMuth Jr. is the founder of Rangeley Capital LLC. Rangeley is an investment firm that focuses on event driven, value-oriented investment opportunities. Rangeley Capital and his value investing forum, Sifting the World (StW), search the world for misplaced bets. Rangeley exploits them for its investors and then Mr. DeMuth writes about them on StW.