Hedge funds.Billionaire investor Warren Buffett thinks they're a fad, while fellow billionaire George Soros used them to strike it rich. Hedge funds are controversial, complex and often shrouded in mystery. And while they've long been a secret haven for the ultra-wealthy, mainstream investors are starting to take notice.

Hedge funds are unregulated private investment vehicles that share some common traits. They're typically organized as limited partnerships or limited liability companies, charge performance-based fees, and restrict participation to a defined number of institutions and wealthy individuals.

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