Sovereign Fund Selling, Market Volatility and Systemic Risk: Connections and Regulatory Possibilities

Bocconi SWF Investment Lab Annual Report, 2015

Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 357

9 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2016 Last revised: 14 Jul 2016

See all articles by Paul Rose

Paul Rose

Ohio State University - Moritz College of Law; Bocconi University - BAFFI Center on International Markets, Money, and Regulation; Tufts University - The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; Fundación Instituto de Empresa, S.L. - IE Business School

Date Written: July 6, 2016

Abstract

Sovereign wealth funds (SWF) have largely proven to be the gentle giants of the financial markets; they tend to be relatively patient, passive shareholders. In contrast to other activist hedge funds, when SWFs do engage with companies, they tend to work behind the scenes to maximize value for the long term.

And yet, because they are funds owned by a sovereign, they often receive significant scrutiny, especially in developed markets, whenever they invest. To date, most of this scrutiny has occurred on the front end of investments, as host-country politicians and regulators question the motives of SWF investment in their markets. In some cases this scrutiny proves to be strict enough to encourage SWFs to look for other opportunities in other markets. As SWFs have continued to invest responsibly and regulators have become increasingly comfortable with SWF investment, the fear-mongering associated with SWF investment has decreased.

Now, however, concerns have arisen not over how SWFs invest, but how they divest. Indeed, some reports seem to attribute depressed stock market prices and general market volatility to SWF divestment. A headline in Barron’s, for example, claimed that “Selling by sovereign wealth funds is a huge headwind for stocks,” and a headline for an article in the Financial Times declared that “Sovereign wealth funds drive turbulent trading.” Undoubtedly withdrawals from some SWFs — particularly Gulf SWFs — have had an impact on the markets, and particularly on stocks in which SWFs tend to overweight in their portfolios, such as stock in financial firms and some consumer goods companies. Perhaps the biggest impact has been felt by asset managers, which have seen their AUM deteriorate as SWFs withdraw funds.

But how significant are SWF withdrawals from markets? Put in a slightly more pointed way, do SWF withdrawals create systemic risk for the markets? And if they do, what could be done about it? This brief analysis, prepared for the Università Bocconi's Sovereign Investment Lab 2016 Annual SWF Report, attempts to work towards an answer to those questions, and in doing so, also attempts to provide some perspective on the larger debate in the appropriate role of SWFs in global capital markets.

Keywords: sovereign wealth, stock market volatility, divestment

JEL Classification: K22, K23

Suggested Citation

Rose, Paul, Sovereign Fund Selling, Market Volatility and Systemic Risk: Connections and Regulatory Possibilities (July 6, 2016). Bocconi SWF Investment Lab Annual Report, 2015; Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 357. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2805437 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2805437

Paul Rose (Contact Author)

Ohio State University - Moritz College of Law ( email )

55 West 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States

Bocconi University - BAFFI Center on International Markets, Money, and Regulation ( email )

Milano, 20136
Italy

Tufts University - The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

Fundación Instituto de Empresa, S.L. - IE Business School ( email )

Calle Maria de Molina 12, Bajo
Madrid, Madrid 28006
Spain

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