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Copycat Funds: Information Disclosure Regulation and the Returns to Active Management in the Mutual Fund Industry

  • Mary Margaret Myers
  • James M. Poterba
  • Douglas A. Shackelford

Mutual funds must disclose their portfolio holdings to investors semiannually. The costs and benefits of such disclosures are a long-standing subject of debate. For actively managed funds, one cost of disclosure is a potential reduction in the private benefits from research on asset values. Disclosure provides public access to information on the assets that the fund manager views as undervalued. This paper tries to quantify this potential cost of disclosure by testing whether 'copycat' mutual funds, funds that purchase the same assets as actively-managed funds as soon as those asset holdings are disclosed, can earn returns that are similar to those of the actively-managed funds. Copycat funds do not incur the research expenses associated with the actively-managed funds that they are mimicking opportunity to invest in assets that managers identify as positive return opportunities between disclosure dates. Our results for a limited sample of high expense funds in the 1990s suggest that while returns before expenses are significantly higher for the underlying actively managed funds relative to the copycat funds, after expenses copycat funds earn statistically indistinguishable, and possibly higher, returns than the underlying actively managed funds. These findings contribute to the policy debate on the optimal level and frequency of fund disclosure.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8653.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8653.

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Date of creation: Dec 2001
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Publication status: published as Frank, Mary Margaret & Poterba, James M & Shackelford, Douglas A & Shoven, John B, 2004. "Copycat Funds: Information Disclosure Regulation and the Returns to Active Management in the Mutual Fund Industry," Journal of Law & Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(2), pages 515-41, October.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8653
Note: AP
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Mark M. Carhart & Ron Kaniel & David K. Musto & Adam V. Reed, 2002. "Leaning for the Tape: Evidence of Gaming Behavior in Equity Mutual Funds," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(2), pages 661-693, 04.
  2. David K. Musto, 1999. "Investment Decisions Depend on Portfolio Disclosures," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(3), pages 935-952, 06.
  3. Foster, George, 1980. " Externalities and Financial Reporting," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 35(2), pages 521-33, May.
  4. Admati, Anat R & Pfleiderer, Paul, 2000. "Forcing Firms to Talk: Financial Disclosure Regulation and Externalities," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 13(3), pages 479-519.
  5. Lakonishok, Josef, et al, 1991. "Window Dressing by Pension Fund Managers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 227-31, May.
  6. Lerner, Josh, 1995. "Patenting in the Shadow of Competitors," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(2), pages 463-95, October.
  7. Verrecchia, Robert E., 1983. "Discretionary disclosure," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 179-194, April.
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