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Thursday, May 01, 2003

Can Fund Firms Collect?

by: Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

One of the promises that mutual funds make to investors is that they will provide professional money management. Yet, that promise may stop fund firms collecting on this week's $1.4 billion settlement between ten investment banks and the SEC. It will not stop at least two fund firms from trying to collect, though.

Both Vanguard and Janus Capital plan to seek part of the $399 million pot the investment banks are creating to pay restitution to shareholders in companies whose stocks were driven up by tainted research, reports the Wall Street Journal.

"In situations where mutual-fund shareholders have been harmed, the fund shareholders should be part of the recovery," the paper quotes Brian Mattes, a spokesman for Vanguard as saying. The paper quotes Shelley Peterson, a Janus spokeswoman, as saying, "Getting money back would be in the best interests of our shareholders."

One theory that Vanguard could use to make a claim is that the tainted research made investors overpay for some stocks. Since Vanguard's largest funds rely on passive management, it could argue that it did not bring its own analysis to the stock purchases, but instead was relying on the market. The settlement implies that the market for the affected stocks was tainted.

Janus, which manages all active funds and advertised its analytical prowess, may have a tougher time proving that it was duped.

Meanwhile, the Investment Company Institute seems to be taking a "wait-and-see" approach to the matter. The fund industry trade group said it has formed no opinion on the matter of whether funds should be able to collect from the restitution pool.  

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