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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fees Continue Downward

by: Theresa Sim

It's been two years since the scandals. What's changed? According to research summarized by Bloomberg from Morningstar, the Financial Research Corp. and ICI, fees for equity mutual funds have dropped six percent since the scandals, due to a mix of several factors.

For one, investors are voting with their feet. The ICI estimates that approximately 25 to 33 percent of the fee reductions are because investors are choosing lower-cost fund families. The funds that have benefited from the inflows include American Funds -- which have captured $91.9 billion in assets from September of 2003 to June of 2005; Vanguard, which took in $22.1 billion in that time period; and T. Rowe Price, which captured $19.3 billion. In total, the three fund firms captured 80 of net equity fund inflows during that period.

Those firms, accordingly, have lowered fees. American and Vanguard cut fees by 5 percent in September of last year, while Vanguard has lowered minimums on its lower-priced Admiral shares, according to Bloomberg.

Fund investors have also benefited from management fee breakpoints and assets continue to balloon in pursuit of the well-performing markets.

So who has the lowest fees out there? According to Morningstar, TIAA-CREF is the lowest-cost provider with an average fund fee of 33 basis points (on an average fund and asset-weighted average basis), followed by Dimensional Fund Advisors at 34 basis points, Vanguard with 37 basis points, Dodge & Cox with 53 basis points and Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo with 55 basis points.

Bucking the low-fee trend include Calamos Asset Management, with an average fund fee of 201 basis points. Gabelli was second with 199 basis points, followed by SunAmerica with 197 basis points, Transamerica with 195 basis points and J&W Seligman with 193 basis points.  

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