The New Permanent Universal Owners: Index Funds, (Im)patient Capital, and the Claim of Long-termism
30 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2019
Date Written: November 13, 2018
Fundamental change is happening in asset management – the shift from actively managed funds to index funds. This money mass migration into index funds has far-reaching consequences, because it leads to a concentration of corporate ownership in the hands of the ‘Big Three’ asset managers. We call BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street the ‘New Permanent Universal Owners’ as they are invested indefinitely in thousands of member firms of stock indexes. We provide novel findings on the combined ownership of the Big Three in 17 major stock indexes from nine countries. Furthermore, we shed light on the impact of index funds on the dichotomy between ‘patient’ and ‘impatient’ capital. The Big Three have proclaimed themselves champions of long-termism. We analyze their voting behavior in five countries concerning two proxies for corporate short-termism: share buybacks, and mergers and acquisitions. So far, they have not unambiguously acted as champions of long-termism.
Keywords: Asset managers, index funds, corporate ownership, corporate governance, short-termism, varieties of capitalism
JEL Classification: G23, G32, P10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation