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Obfuscation, Learning, and the Evolution of Investor Sophistication

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  • Bruce Ian Carlin
  • Gustavo Manso

Abstract

Investor sophistication has lagged behind the growing complexity of retail financial markets. To explore this, we develop a dynamic model to study the interaction between obfuscation and investor sophistication in mutual fund markets. Taking into account different learning mechanisms within the investor population, we characterize the optimal timing of obfuscation for financial institutions who offer retail products. We show that educational initiatives that are directed to facilitate learning by investors may induce providers to increase wasteful obfuscation, further disorienting investors and decreasing overall welfare. Obfuscation decreases with competition among firms, since the information rents from obfuscation dissipate as each institution attracts a smaller market share. The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Society for Financial Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org., Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce Ian Carlin & Gustavo Manso, 2011. "Obfuscation, Learning, and the Evolution of Investor Sophistication," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 24(3), pages 754-785.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:rfinst:v:24:y:2011:i:3:p:754-785
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