- June 2009: Vol. 21 No. 6

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Placement Agents Under Fire

by Rachel Speirs

Recent allegations of a “pay-to-play” scheme at the New York State Common Retirement Fund has sparked a nationwide conversation on the role of investment middlemen known as placement agents.

George Ahl never thought of his job as being particularly controversial. As a placement agent with M3 Capital Partners, he raises private equity on behalf of public and private real estate operating companies and funds that have hired him to do so.

Before taking on any new assignment, he and his 71-person team vet each opportunity thoroughly: They do sector analysis, visit sites, develop financial models and evaluate the management team, its track record and the merits — and risks — of a given strategy.

The process, he says, helps ensure that each product is tailored to fit the needs of a given investor. Part of their job, he says, is to help investors evaluate whether

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