Hedge Fund Side Letters: The View from the Fund Director’s Perspective

Most hedge funds are asked at one time or another by certain investors to provide side letters agreeing to preferential dealing, investment or other strategic terms.  There are clear cases where a side letter would not be acceptable, e.g., it contains plainly egregious terms; has no legitimate purpose; or is clearly contrary to what the hedge fund or hedge fund manager is doing in practice.  In most circumstances, however, there is no black and white answer as to what constitutes an acceptable side letter term or where the line should be drawn.  In crafting a side letter term that is in the best interest of the hedge fund (and in particular, other investors in the fund), there is a difficult balancing act that managers must perform.  On the one hand, the side letter can be used to facilitate a large investment that attracts other strategic investors, which could benefit the fund and the execution of its investment strategy.  On the other hand, side letters generally raise various fiduciary and other concerns that must be addressed.  In a guest article, Victor Murray, an independent accredited director at MG Management Ltd., discusses: side letter disclosure; ERISA considerations relating to side letters; unsavory terms; shareholder actions relating to side letters; lack of statutory provisions; derivative actions; fraud on the minority; and best practices in relation to directors’ review of side letters.

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