Many years ago MIT’s Andy Lo made a simple point (weirdly, I haven’t been able to track down the paper) about the distortion of incentives inherent in financial-industry compensation. Suppose you’re a hedge fund manager, getting 2 and 20 — fees of 2 percent of investors’ money, plus 20 percent of profits. What you want to do is load up on as much leverage as possible, and make high-risk, high return investments. This more or less guarantees that your fund will eventually go bust — but in the meantime you’ll have raked in huge personal earnings, and can walk away filthy rich from the wreckage.
But surely, you say, investors will see through this strategy. They can’t consistently be that stupid or naive, can they?