Tag: Mutual funds


Proposed Rule on Registered Funds’ Use of Derivatives

David C. Sullivan is partner in the Investment Management practice at Ropes & Gray LLP. This post is based on a Ropes & Gray publication by Mr. Sullivan, Tim Diggins, George Raine and Sarah Clinton.

On December 11, 2015, the SEC issued its long-anticipated release (the “Release”) proposing Rule 18f-4 (“the “Proposed Rule”) under the 1940 Act regarding the use of derivatives and certain related instruments by registered investment companies (collectively, “funds”). The stated objective of the Release is to “address the investor protection purposes and concerns underlying section 18 [of the 1940 Act] and to provide an updated and more comprehensive approach to the regulation of funds’ use of derivatives” in light of the increased participation by funds in today’s large and complex derivatives markets.

We provide an executive summary of the Proposed Rule and other aspects of the Release below and, in the Appendix of the complete publication, we discuss the Proposed Rule in more detail.

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2015 FINRA Enforcement Actions

Jonathan N. Eisenberg is partner in the Government Enforcement practice at K&L Gates LLP. This post is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Eisenberg.

Over the past several years, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), the self-regulatory organization responsible for regulating every brokerage firm and broker doing business with the U.S. public, brought between 1,300 and 1,600 disciplinary actions each year. In 2014, the most recent year for which full-year statistics are available, it ordered $134 million in fines and $32.2 million in restitution. During the same period, it barred or suspended nearly 1,200 individuals, and expelled or suspended 23 firms. It also referred over 700 fraud cases to other federal or state agencies for potential prosecution. FINRA orders also often trigger automatic “statutory disqualifications” under Section 3(a)(39) of the Securities Exchange Act and Article III, Section 4 of FINRA’s By-Laws. Absent relief, these disqualifications prohibit persons from associating with a broker-dealer or prohibit firms from acting as broker-dealers.

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Chair White Statement on Use of Derivatives

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Chair White’s remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

The Commission will consider two separate recommendations from the staff today [December 11, 2015]. First, we will consider and vote on a recommendation from the staff of the Division of Investment Management to propose an updated and more comprehensive approach to the use of derivatives by mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, closed-end funds, and business development companies.

Second, we will consider and vote on a recommendation from the staff of the Division of Corporation Finance to propose rules to require disclosure of certain payments made to governments by resource extraction issuers, as mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act.

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Protecting Investors through Proactive Regulation of Derivatives

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement at an open meeting of the SEC; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Today [December 11, 2015], the Commission considers new rules that are designed to protect investors by addressing the use of derivatives by registered investment companies. As demonstrated by the 2008 financial crisis, and the economic turmoil that followed, years of regulatory complacency and deregulation enabled an unregulated derivatives marketplace to cause significant losses to investors. In response to that crisis, in 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act to address the causes of the financial crisis, and specifically included provisions in Title VII of the Act mandating the establishment of a regulatory framework for addressing broad categories of derivatives. This process is still ongoing.

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Dissenting Statement on Use of Derivatives

Michael S. Piwowar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Piwowar’s recent remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Piwowar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Today [December 11, 2015], we are considering a proposed new exemptive rule that addresses the use of derivatives and financial commitment transactions by registered investment companies and business development companies (collectively, “funds”). This proposal is the third in a series of initiatives aimed at ensuring that the Commission’s regulatory program fully addresses the increasingly complex portfolio composition and operations of the asset management industry.

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Which Shareholders Benefit from Low-Cost Monitoring Opportunities?

Miriam Schwartz-Ziv is Assistant Professor of Finance at Michigan State University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Schwartz-Ziv and Russ Wermers, Professor of Finance at the University of Maryland.

The traditional view in the finance literature is that shareholders that hold a large stake in a company are more likely to take costly actions, such as initiating a proxy fight or confronting management, while small shareholders will enjoy a free ride. In our recent paper, entitled Which Shareholders Benefit from Low Cost Monitoring Opportunities? Evidence from Say on Pay, we examine which shareholders are likely to take advantage of a low-cost monitoring opportunity, specifically, the Say-On-Pay vote (SOP). As we shall specify, we contrast SOP voting behavior on three levels: the aggregate level, the mutual fund level, and the institutional level to provide a finer granularity of voting patterns. Our primary finding is that, compared to large-scale shareholders (those who own greater than 5% of outstanding shares), small institutional shareholders are more likely to vote against management on the SOP vote. This voting pattern implies that, when ownership is dispersed, the low-cost SOP vote provides an opportunity for many small institutional shareholders to coordinate, and to voice a unified message.

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Investor-Advisor Relationships and Mutual Fund Flows

Leonard Kostovetsky is Assistant Professor of Finance at Boston College. This post is based on Professor Kostovetsky’s recent article, available here.

In my paper, Whom Do You Trust? Investor-Advisor Relationships and Mutual Fund Flows, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, I investigate the role of trust in the asset management industry. While there is plenty of anecdotal and survey evidence which underlines the general importance of trust in finance, academic research has been scarce due to the difficulty of quantifying and measuring trust. In this paper, I use an exogenous shock to the relationships between investors and mutual fund advisory companies (e.g. Fidelity, Wells Fargo, Vanguard, etc.) to try to tease out the effect of trust.

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The Importance of Being Earnest About Liquidity Risk Management

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement at an open meeting of the SEC; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

The fund industry has witnessed substantial changes in recent years, including the rise of novel investment strategies, a growing use of derivatives, and an increased focus on assets that, traditionally, have been less liquid. Unfortunately, it appears that not all funds’ liquidity risk management practices have kept pace with these developments.

Today [September 22, 2015], the Commission considers proposing a set of rules and amendments that will help ensure that open-end investment companies—which include mutual funds and exchange traded funds—manage their liquidity risks in a prudent and responsible manner. The proposed changes will also help attenuate the dilution risks that confront long-term shareholders, and will give investors needed tools to monitor how well funds are managing their liquidity risk. These proposals are important, because they will adapt our decades-old liquidity regime to the fund industry’s new and vastly altered landscape. The proposals we consider today are especially timely, for at least two reasons. First, a study published just last night suggests that U.S. bond funds need to sharpen their methodologies for analyzing the liquidity of their portfolios, because their current methods might be inadequate. And second, a resurgence of volatility in the bond markets in recent months has, in concert with shifting market dynamics, thrust liquidity concerns in that space to the forefront.

These proposals are intended to foster a rigorous and analytically sound approach to liquidity risk management, while also helping investors to better gauge the ability of funds to fulfill redemption obligations.

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Open-End Fund Liquidity Risk Management and Swing Pricing

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Chair White’s remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

The Commission will consider a recommendation of the staff to propose a new rule and amendments designed to strengthen the management of liquidity risks by registered open-end investment companies, including mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (or ETFs).

Regulation of the asset management industry is one of the Commission’s most important responsibilities in furthering our mission to protect investors, maintain orderly markets, and promote capital formation. The Commission oversees registered investment companies with combined assets of approximately $18.8 trillion and registered investment advisers with approximately $67 trillion in regulatory assets under their management. At the end of 2014, 53.2 million households, or 43.3 percent of all U.S. households, owned mutual funds. Fittingly, next Tuesday, we will reflect on our history of regulating funds and advisers at an event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Investment Company Act and the Investment Advisers Act.

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Mutual Fund Flows When Managers Have Foreign-Sounding Names

Oliver Spalt is Professor of Behavioral Finance at Tilburg University. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Spalt; Alok Kumar, Professor of Finance at the University of Miami; and Alexandra Niessen-Ruenzi.

In our paper What’s in a Name? Mutual Fund Flows When Managers Have Foreign-Sounding Names, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we show that name-induced stereotypes affect the investment choices of U.S. mutual fund investors. Managers with foreign-sounding names have about 10% lower annual fund flows, and this effect is stronger among funds with investor clienteles that are more likely to be suspicious of foreigners ex ante.

Our results are based on a novel, hand-collected dataset that contains measures of foreignness of a large sample of mutual fund managers. Specifically, we conduct an online survey in which we present US residents with almost 4,000 actual fund manager names for actively managed US equity funds that appear in the CRSP database from 1993 to 2011. We then ask survey participants to rate for each name, whether or not it sounds foreign to them. Using their responses, we obtain for each fund a measure of whether the name of its manager sounds foreign to an investor when heard, read in a fund prospectus, or when it is found on a mutual fund web site. We hypothesize that the perceived foreignness of a name might trigger social biases such as discrimination and stereotyping and, thus, influence the investment decisions of mutual fund investors. We match our new dataset with the universe of actively managed US equity funds in the CRSP database to test this hypothesis.

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