There have been many articles appearing in financial journals in the last few months on the topic of ‘closet trackers’ a specific type of tracker fund in what has been labelled an ‘outrageous financial scam’ by some academics.
A ‘tracker fund’ is an investment term and comes from the tracking function of index fund management, which, put simply, attempts to replicate the performance of a market index. As investors will know, with Index Tracking Funds, a fund manager does not pick the stocks individually, he/she invests in a basket of stocks that replicate a predetermined index (e.g. S&P 500) where the aim is to equal or match the index, but not to beat or better it. This in turn means that there is less work involved for the manager, and a low portfolio turnover is the norm. In theory these funds should be less expensive than actively managed funds, which attract higher maintenance fees as managers pick the stocks with an eye towards high returns (a certain level of expertise and research is involved in this process)
Mutton dressed as lamb
A closet tracker fund is a fund that is supposedly actively managed, but in essence it isn’t and is effectively the same as a normal tracker fund. Investment banks and brokerages have been under scrutiny recently, accused of mis-selling funds that charge high fees for active management but do little more than replicate an index. The practice has been widely condemned by many in the industry as an abusive practice. It involves managers merely hugging a benchmark index by holding the same stocks, thus they do not add any extra value while charging high fees.
Genuine tracker funds are generally better for investors for two simple reasons; they charge lower fees and they track the chosen index closely. Certain financial commentaries have recently expressed the view that as many as one in three managed funds could be closet trackers. Advocates of true ‘active management’ have become increasingly vocal and concerned that some consumers are paying huge sums of money for the benefit of an actively-managed fund only to get an investment which is effectively the opposite.
Recently, The Swedish government has begun an investigation into these types of funds following on from accusations earlier in the month that Swedbank Robur, the asset management arm of Swedbank, was ‘bullying’ its own clients in an attempt to block a class-action claim filed against the lender in December 2014. The claim was filed by the SSA (Swedish Shareholders Association) and more than 3,000 Swedbank Robur clients have signed up to the lawsuit. READ ARTICLE HERE
The investigation by the Swedish Government is the first of its kind from a European Government and will be watched closely across Europe. Per Bolund, Sweden’s deputy finance minister and minister for financial markets and consumer affairs has stated “It is important you get what you pay for. When you start looking at funds that claim to be actively managed it is sometimes hard to see why they charge higher fees than the available index fund. If investors want a managed fund they should be sure that it is being managed in an active way”.
The Swedes are certainly leading the way in pursuing closet tracking funds and it comes as no surprise as approximately 80% of Swedish citizens own investment funds and roughly one third of household wealth is allocated to the asset management industry. Carl Rosen, chief executive of the Swedish Shareholders Association, recently noted that although Sweden may be taking the lead, the Norwegians, the Dutch and the Danish have also placed the issue on their agendas.
ESMA, The European Securities and Market Authority is currently investigating the matter and in discussions with its 28 national regulators, including the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) in the UK, to assess whether closet tracking is a bigger problem at a single country level or is a Europe-wide concern.
At Coleman Legal Partners
We will be keeping an eye on how this issue develops and updates will follow where appropriate. It will be interesting to see the outcomes of the investigation in Sweden. European regulators are increasingly sharing best practice, so an investigation in Sweden could well prompt investigations or reviews in other European countries.
We have established a strong reputation in the area of financial litigation, successfully acting for investors who have suffered losses as a result of the mis-selling or mis-management of investment products, including geared tracker funds. Through a number of high profile, high value cases, our solicitors have established the procedures necessary for groups of individuals affected by the same issue to achieve redress from the Irish Courts, where the ‘class action’ system used in the United States and Britain is not available.
IF YOU FEEL YOU HAVE BEEN SOLD A CLOSET TRACKER FUND
Contact Eoin McGlinchey by email or FREEphone Coleman Legal Partners on 1800 844 104 to discuss your requirements.