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Monday, November 09, 2009

How Will the SC Rule on Oakmark?

by: Daniel Tovrov

Speculation runs wild about the Supreme Court's potential decision in the Oakmark Funds hearing. In the Wall Street Journal's Fund Track today, Sam Mamudi predicts that the court's impending ruling will pressure mutual funds to further justify fees.

Interpretation of questions asked by the justices during the oral argument portion of the trial last Monday has led experts to believe that the court may not institute radical changes. They instead will likely order that special attention be paid on fee continuity between institutional and fund clients.

"I think we could see [in the ruling] an added emphasis on the comparison between the two [fees]," Ryan Leggio, fund analyst at Morningstar, told the Journal.

Mamudi also suggests that the industry might see a reestablished Gartenberg Standard for evaluating fund fees. The ruling in the 1982 Gartenberg v. Merrill Lynch Asset Management case set the 25 year standard for fee policy, and states that a fee is excessive if it's so "'disproportionately large' that there is no way the fee negotiations could have been conducted at arm's length," according to the Journal.

While the Journal thinks that the court's decision will actually lead to lower fees as fund companies will fear being sued, Businessweek columnist David Bogoslaw says money managers and investors should brace themselves for fee increases due to increased government presence and pressure. 

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