Dynamic Setting of Distribution Fees in the US Mutual Fund Industry

Posted: 2 Apr 2009

See all articles by Lorenzo Casavecchia

Lorenzo Casavecchia

University of Technology Sydney

Massimo Scotti

University of Technology Sydney

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 18, 2009


The distribution strategies of mutual funds directly or indirectly affect both their growth and their revenues. The extent of resources dedicated by a fund to its distribution channel(s) is therefore an important strategic decision. For a sample of US diversified equity mutual funds in the period from 1994 to 2007, we analyze the distribution fees and their components (12b-1 fees and loads) with the aim to identify their economic determinants. In particular, we examine the temporal and cross-sectional relation between distribution fees and past performance, and show that past performance is an important determinant of distribution fees. Our subsequent analysis of the relation between flows and performance supports the hypothesis that management companies strategically adjust their distribution fees in response to reported returns in an attempt to influence future net money flows. We highlight that this strategic behavior is particularly concentrated in the broker-sold segment of funds and, quite surprisingly, among poor performing funds. We suggest that poorly performing funds that use their distribution channels intensively to market improvements in performance experience increased net flows, even if these improvements are merely ameliorated bad performance. Finally, we show that the higher flow benefit enjoyed by poorly performing funds occurs only when an increase in distribution fees is accompanied by a simultaneous decrease in management expenses, which suggests that investors do pay attention to the total cost of investment. Our results also show that mutual funds are always penalized by investors for raising both of these fees simultaneously. This phenomenon is furthermore amplified in the case of funds with good past performance results.

Keywords: Mutual fund performance, mutual fund fees, strategic pricing, flow-performance sensitivity

JEL Classification: G23, G28

Suggested Citation

Casavecchia, Lorenzo and Scotti, Massimo, Dynamic Setting of Distribution Fees in the US Mutual Fund Industry (March 18, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1364141

Lorenzo Casavecchia (Contact Author)

University of Technology Sydney ( email )

8 Ultimo Rd
Sydney, NSW 2007

Massimo Scotti

University of Technology Sydney ( email )

15 Broadway, Ultimo

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