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Rating:Concerns Cause Fund Firm to Cease Quarterly Calls Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Concerns Cause Fund Firm to Cease Quarterly Calls

by: Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

While the SEC and shareholder advocates are asking for more disclosure from funds, at least one small fund shop has decided that the cost of disclosure is too high. O. Mason Hawkins, the chairman of Southeastern Asset Management (sponsor of the Longleaf Funds) told listeners on its conference call last week that the call would be the last.

Hawkins explained that "some people used this conference-call forum against us, to buy in advance or sell in advance of what Southeastern might be doing for our shareholders." The three Longleaf funds hold some $8 billion in assets.

Longleaf Funds had used the calls as a way to keep investment advisors and analysts in touch with their portfolio managers. The firm will continue its quarterly newsletters and its tradition of letting fund shareholders meet and question portfolio managers at its annual meeting in Memphis.

The conference calls, though, are a thing of the past. Longleaf discovered that while simply not commenting when asked about specific stocks may have prevented front-runners from scalping their portfolio, that practice created speculation about whether the fund continued to hold the stocks.

Meanwhile, Vanguard said today that it supports more frequent disclosure of portfolio holdings by the SEC and that it also supports the proposal for more cost disclosure by funds.

The Vanguard position on cost disclosure should come as little surprise, as the Valley Forge, Pennsylvania-headquartered firm has long made low cost the center of its business proposition. Its stance on portfolio disclosure is more daring.

Vanguard is, of course, one of the largest fund providers, and thus faces the potential for the largest added costs if more portfolio disclosure is required. However, it already discloses the largest positions in each of its funds on a monthly basis. If the SEC does not require the disclosure of full portfolios, the rule would not effect the firm's business.

Last month, Vanguard Chairman Jack Brennan caught the industry's attention by joining with Fidelity Chairman Ned Johnson in a editorial arguing against the SEC's proxy vote disclosure rule. Brennan's has come under fire for taking the stand against a rule that Vanguard founder Jack Bogle publicly supported.

It will be interesting to watch Vanguard's public stances down the road.  

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