Loss Avoidance in Private Equity

Thursday February 1, 2024


Private equity investors rely on reported fund performance to make informed investment decisions. This paper provides evidence that buyout funds manage multiples of invested capital (MOICs) for portfolio companies to avoid incurring and reporting capital losses. In the distribution of deal-level MOICs, we document an unusually low frequency of multiples just below 1.0 and an unusually high frequency of payouts that are equal to or just above 1.0. This behavior is consistent with funds attempting to minimize loss ratios which are commonly used to assess the riskiness of funds by outside investors and consultants. We document that more experienced general partners (GPs) appear more likely to engage in loss avoidance and do so while they are fundraising for their next fund. Loss avoidance may provide financial benefits because loss-avoiding GPs raise significantly larger subsequent funds relative to their vintage year peers. While loss avoidance may benefit GPs, it is negatively associated with the final fund returns that investors receive.


Maria N. Borysoff, George Mason University School of Business
Gregory W. Brown, UNC Institute for Private Capital and Kenan-Flagler Business School