Less obvious is the importance of director incentives in mutual funds or the extent to which effective corporate governance is related to mutual fund performance. If ownership by directors plays an economically and statistically significant role in fund performance, it stands to reason that funds in which directors have low ownership, or “skin in the game,” significantly underperform.
New research by David Weinbaum, associate professor of finance in the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, hypothesizes that lack of ownership could indicate a director’s lack of alignment with fund shareholders interests. Co-written by Martijn Cremers, Joost Driessen, and Pascal Maenhout, and published in the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, the research also investigates whether or not directors may have superior private information on future performance.
“We look at whether director ownership as a proxy for effective governance is associated with superior mutual fund performance and if so, what economic mechanism could explain that,” says Weinbaum.
Through use of a unique database on ownership stakes of equity mutual fund directors, the team analyzed whether effective mutual fund governance is related to performance, finding that direct ownership stakes are important for fund performance.
“Specifically, low ownership funds significantly underperform. Funds with higher ownership by non-independent directors have lower fees. However, this only explains part of the relation between ownership and performance.”The team concluded that the link between low director ownership and poor fund performance were attributed to:
David Weinbaum is an associate professor of finance in the Whitman School of Management. He earned his PhD at NYU Stern. Weinbaum’s research interests are in investments, derivatives, mutual funds, and corporate governance. His current projects involve an analysis of the impact of director ownership on mutual fund performance, an examination of the effect of CEO perquisite disclosure on firm value, and an investigation of the information content of option prices for future stock returns.
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