Ken Fisher is a money manager, Forbes columnist, and it is one of the Forbes 400 richest Americans. Stockerblog: Let’s talk about keeping your assets separate from the money manager. I know that’s one of the major issues to bear in mind when you make investments. But doesn’t that really preclude a trader from purchasing a private equity finance, a real estate limited relationship, or a hedge fund, where after the money goes in, it’s under their control? Fisher: You are generally correct. Not completely, but generally.

For the most part, most entities that are available of effectively being truly a hedge fund for their own convenience have a tendency to arranged things up where they take custody. Whenever you give someone physical ownership of your resources, you are trusting them never to take it out the back door completely. To the extent that they are a private equity firm or a hedge fund and there is not the separate alternative party custodian, you always run the chance to be embezzled. There is absolutely no exception to that.

So that is something that individuals don’t think about because they prefer not to, but it is how people got nailed by Madoff exactly, and exactly how people get embezzled by every Ponzi system exactly, embezzler, ratzo, and con musician. Actually, it’s how Madoff hurt himself. The fact is, if Madoff acquired arranged himself up to truly have a distinct alternative party custodian originally, he never could have fallen to the enticement to dip into the till, which by his testimony is what he did.

I want to reiterate that man, before he started down the path of criminality, was an extremely successful businessman, very wealthy in his own right. In the book, How exactly to Smell a Rat: The Five Signs of Financial Fraud, I talk about how people fall under this one of two ways.

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Like Madoff supposedly do, they happen out of convenience where they take guardianship and then run into a negative patch, and they need some money so they drop into the right up until. But this is one of the nice reasons that when I set up my business, at first, I ensured that I could never take custody because it protects me from myself. I am shielded by it from a poor minute.

It shields me from some bad employees. The fact is, I’m not only safeguarding my clients that way, but I’m also protecting myself that way. Stockerblog: I know that some traders go into real estate limited partnerships for the taxes benefits and other styles of partnerships. So they don’t, apart from doing as much due diligence as they can, they don’t have much choice after they convert their money to a limited relationship.

Fisher: Once you switch your money to someone else, they may take it out the back door. Stockerblog: So do you recommend that individuals steer clear of the more exotic kinds of investments and limited partnerships? Fisher: I believe you have to think of the extra risks involved. You have to say to yourself “Just how much of my money do I wish to put into this, where I finish up with this extra risk”. It is the extra risk of losing everything. Generally, one of the dilemmas that people see with these Ponzi plans and people is that they encourage people to devote a 3rd, two-thirds, to all of their money.

It’s amazing to observe how many people acquired Madoff as their main investment, effectively wiping them out almost completely. Stockerblog: In one part of your book, you talk about how bad performance does not mean that the manager is a rat necessarily. As a matter of fact, it’s probably more likely that they are not a rat.

Can you discuss that briefly? Fisher: Sure. Anyone that has been in the investment business for a long time, I don’t caution whether it’s Warren Buffet, Peter Lynch, Bill Gross, I don’t care who it is, everybody’s experienced bad years. The type of the beast is, if you’re around for a long period, you’ve experienced bad years. Among the natures of individual existence that I believe all of your listeners (and visitors) know is that individuals can’t stand volatility. They just like a smooth easy trip. If you skipped Part 2, you can here check it out. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the interview prohibited without permission. Neither Stockerblog nor the interviewer nor the interviewee are making tax, legal, or investment advice in this interview.