Did Reform of Prudent Trust Investment Laws Change Trust Portfolio Allocation?

32 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2005 Last revised: 9 Jul 2008

See all articles by Max M. Schanzenbach

Max M. Schanzenbach

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law

Robert H. Sitkoff

Harvard University - Harvard Law School; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)


This paper investigates the effect of changes in state prudent trust investment laws on asset allocation in noncommercial trusts. The old prudent-man rule favored "safe" investments and disfavored "speculation" in stock. The new prudent-investor rule directs trustees to craft an investment portfolio that fits the risk tolerance of the beneficiaries and the purpose of the trust. Using state- and institution-level panel data from 1986-97, we find that after adoption of the new prudent-investor rule, institutional trustees held about 1.5-4.5 percentage points more stock at the expense of "safe" investments. Our findings explain roughly 10-30 percent of the overall increase in stock holdings in the period studied. The rest of the increase appears to be attributable to stock market appreciation. We conclude that, even though trust fiduciary laws are nominally default rules, institutional trustees are nonetheless sensitive to changes in those rules.

Keywords: prudence, trust investment law, modern portfolio theory, investment, prudent investor rule, prudent man rule, agency costs, fiduciary

JEL Classification: C23, G11, G21, G23, K11

Suggested Citation

Schanzenbach, Max Matthew and Sitkoff, Robert H., Did Reform of Prudent Trust Investment Laws Change Trust Portfolio Allocation?. Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 50, 2007, Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 580, NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 05-30, Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 05-27, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=868761

Max Matthew Schanzenbach

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Robert H. Sitkoff (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://hls.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/10813/Sitkoff

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
Rue Ducale 1 Hertogsstraat
1000 Brussels

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