Mutual Fund Performance Advertising: Inherently and Materially Misleading?
Alan R. Palmiter
Wake Forest University - School of Law
Ahmed E. Taha
Pepperdine University - School of Law
December 30, 2011
Georgia Law Review, Forthcoming
Mutual fund companies routinely advertise the past returns of their strong-performing, actively-managed equity funds. These performance advertisements imply that the advertised high past returns are likely to continue. Indeed, investors flock to these funds despite high past returns being a poor predictor of high future returns. Thus, fund performance advertising is inherently and materially misleading and violates federal securities antifraud standards. In addition, the SEC-mandated warning in these advertisements that “past performance does not guarantee future results” fails to temper investors’ focus on past returns.
The SEC should do more to prevent investors from being misled by fund performance advertisements. It should at least require a stronger warning that makes clear that high returns by actively-managed mutual funds generally do not persist. The SEC should also seriously consider reinstating its prior prohibition of performance advertisements. Such a ban would help investors focus on more important fund characteristics, such a fund’s costs, risk, and the extent to which the fund’s investment objective matches that of the investor.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 48
Keywords: mutual funds, advertising, deceptive advertising, securities law, securities regulation, financial institutions, investing, investor protection, regulation, securities law, Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Trade Commission, FTC, SEC
JEL Classification: G20, G23, G28, K20, K22, M30, M37
Date posted: February 17, 2011 ; Last revised: December 31, 2011