I have been looking at Highland Capital Management with respect to their NexPoint Merger Arbitrage fund (HMEZX). In the process, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal from October 16, 2019 that indicated that the firm filed for bankruptcy.
HMEZX has a very good record, but I was curious why the fund had only attracted $68 million in assets since it opened in September 2016. The answer may be found in this article:
"Highland Capital Management LP, once a giant in high-yield debt markets, filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday as investors and former employees seek more than $200 million from the firm for alleged improprieties.
The Dallas-based firm founded by Jim Dondero helped pioneer trading of corporate loans rated below investment-grade and managed about $39 billion in 2007, but it took heavy losses during the financial crisis and has been embroiled in lawsuits ever since. The company had been trying in recent weeks to settle some of the litigation it faces, warning its adversaries that it would seek bankruptcy protection if they didn’t compromise, people familiar with the matter said.
Highland entered chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., listing as its largest debt a disputed $189 million claim from investors in Highland Crusader Fund, a hedge fund that has been in liquidation since the financial crisis. The second-largest creditor is Patrick Daugherty, a former Highland portfolio-manager who has been in personal and legal conflict with Mr. Dondero since 2012 and has an $11.7 million claim against Highland, according to its bankruptcy filing.
A group of investors in Crusader sued Highland in 2016 in Delaware Chancery Court, demanding Highland be fired as manager for delaying the fund’s liquidation and claiming that Highland wrongfully paid itself $30 million. The group subsequently won an arbitration award that Highland has yet to pay, court documents show.
In a statement, Highland said the bankruptcy filing was made “in consideration of its liquidity profile” and stems from a potential judgment in favor of a committee of Crusader Fund investors."
I don't know the current status of of the bankruptcy filing, but, needless to say, I am no longer interested in HMEZX as a potential investment opportunity.
If anybody has more up to date information on the fund advisor's bankruptcy status, I would appreciate hearing from you.
But, buyer beware.
Regardless, there are clearly some underlying fiduciary issues when investing with Nexpoint/Highland. Cannot trust this mgmt group (led by J. Dondero), based on shady history.
Bummer. This fund (HMEZX) has been such a smooth performer.
Note 10. Other Affiliate Matters
The Investment Adviser has historically been affiliated through common control with Highland Capital Management, L.P. (“HCMLP”), an SEC-registered investment adviser that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on October 16, 2019. On January 9, 2020, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas (the “Court”) approved a change of control of HCMLP, which involved the resignation of James Dondero as the sole director of, and the appointment of an independent board to, HCMLP’s general partner. On October 9, 2020, Mr. Dondero resigned as an employee of HCMLP and as portfolio manager for all HCMLP-advised funds. As a result of these changes, the Adviser is no longer under common control or otherwise affiliated with HCMLP. Mr. Dondero continues to be a portfolio manager for the Investment Adviser and the Fund.
On November 13, 2020, HCMLP filed an amended plan of reorganization and disclosure statement with the Court (the “Amended Plan”), which was subsequently approved by the Creditors and confirmed (subject to final order) by the Court. On November 30, 2020, HCMLP provided notice of termination of the Shared Services Agreement with the Investment Adviser, through which HCMLP had provided support services to the Adviser. The Shared Services Agreement was terminated effective February 19, 2021. However, the Investment Adviser expects to be able to continue to provide the required advisory and support services to the Trust through a transfer of personnel, equipment and/or facilities from HCMLP either to the Investment Adviser or to a third-party service provider.
On the one hand, M* claims that HMEZX has "a weak portfolio-management team" but, on the other hand, it also states that a "sign of strength at Highland is its management team, which boasts an average asset-weighted tenure of 15 years at the firm. This accumulation of experience builds confidence that the group can navigate a variety of market environments adeptly." Which is it? What am I missing?
"NexPoint Merger Arbitrage Z earns a Morningstar Quantitative Rating of Negative because of negative contributors including a weak portfolio-management team and a questionable investment process. [...]
Despite the portfolio managers with industry-standard experience and its longest-tenured manager's experience, the team managing NexPoint Merger Arbitrage Fund has a considerable number of weaknesses, warranting a Low People Pillar rating. The team is led by James D. Dondero, the longest-tenured manager on the strategy, who brings 23 years of industry experience. They’re also the named manager on eight additional funds, a total of $1.30 billion in assets. The funds have an average Morningstar Rating of 2.3 stars, demonstrating disappointing risk-adjusted performance. The team is small, but adequately equipped, with only two other supporting managers. Together, the three boast an average of nine years in the industry. [...]
Highland has a way to go to become an industry-standard steward, resulting in a Low Parent Pillar rating. Highland products are costlier than similarly distributed funds at other highly-rated asset managers, on average in the second most expensive quintile of category peers. The higher expense profile contributes negatively to the firm's overall stewardship rating and creates a larger performance hurdle. The firm has not had a durable fund lineup. Specifically, its five-year risk-adjusted success ratio demonstrates that only 21% of products both survived and beat their respective category average on a risk-adjusted basis,. A low success ratio not only indicates poor performance but also raises flags about a firm’s discipline around investment strategy and product development. A sign of strength at Highland is its management team, which boasts an average asset-weighted tenure of 15 years at the firm. This accumulation of experience builds confidence that the group can navigate a variety of market environments adeptly.
Mar 22, 2021"
HAL, should I buy this fund?
I'm sorry Dave, I can't answer that.
Hope you are doing well!
Please make a note that we have received a response from our team as mentioned below.
The weak management team refers to the team managing the NexPoint Merger Arbitrage fund while the firm Highland does benefit from having long-tenured managers.
The disconnect is one is looking at the fund while the other is looking at the firm.
If you have any additional questions, please feel free to get in touch with us.
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