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This is a difficult market filled with peril, one whose twists and turns test the patience and skill of all fund managers.

But some fund managers have the gift of being able to lose money regardless of the market. Usually, a portfolio manager or analyst would dare to dream that one day he or she could face Wall Street and state defiantly that they can profit from the market at will.

The men and women who manage the funds listed below have done something altogether different.

To be fair, one could make excuses for some of these performances. For example, some of the funds were exposed to the battered financial-services sector. For other funds it could be said that the very poor one-year number is the reason for the less-than-stellar performance over three and five years.

But the bottom line is that these excuses just don't fly -- these guys messed up royally. It would have been better for them to stay in a money market fund for five years or stuff the cash under a very large mattress. The situation becomes even more absurd when you think of the salaries of these managers and their analysts and all the resources that go into their "analytical processes," which make their way into the fees that they charge.

Investors have been paying these people to lose their money.

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The list below is sorted by each fund's five-year number, which means it takes into account returns for 2003 through to 2008. Four of those years were associated with what can be termed a bull market.

Sam Patel, CFA, is the manager of mutual fund research for the Ratings.

In keeping with TSC's Investment Policy, employees of Ratings with access to pre-publication ratings data must pre-clear any potential trade through the legal department, and are prohibited from trading any security that is the subject of an unpublished rating revision until the second business day after the rating is published.

While Patel cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he appreciates your feedback;

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