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TSC Ratings provides exclusive stock, ETF and mutual fund ratings and commentary based on award-winning, proprietary tools. Its "safety first" approach to investing aims to reduce risk while seeking solid outperformance on a total return basis.


who bought the curve-breaking

CGM Focus Fund

(CGMFX) - Get Free Report

thinking Ken Heebner would hit home runs forever have watched the legendary

mutual fund manager

strike out with disturbing regularity in recent quarters.

The Focus Fund is down 5.3% this year even as the

S&P 500

index gained 1.7%.


have seen 57% of its value evaporate in the past 12 months, exceeding the S&P 500's 35% decline. That's quite a reversal from its 80% leap in 2007, when the index rose only 5.5%.

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Adding to investors' pain is the $61.1 million in management fees they shouldered last year even as their wealth shrank. These costs totaled 1.36% of fund assets, with short sales accounting for 0.39%. That's more than double the 0.64% average expense ratio charged by the no-load mutual funds we track with at least $1 billion in assets.

Ironically, the expense ratio for last year's dismal showing was up from 1.27% in 2007, when the Focus Fund buried the competition in almost every performance category. Heebner's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

During some years, CGM boosted the performance of the Focus Fund and its

CGM Mutual Fund

(LOMMX) - Get Free Report

by reducing management fees. However, it didn't limit fees during the Focus Fund's disastrous 2008 slide.

The fund's turnover rate last year was 504%. The average mutual fund with more than $1 billion in assets has a turnover rate of 67%.

The Focus Fund established its lead over the market with respective gains of 54% and 48% in 2000 and 2001, which were bear market years for stocks. Flashes of brilliance have helped the fund return 9.3% a year, on average, for the past five years, compared with the S&P 500's annual loss of 1.6%. Despite the recent lapse, holders of the fund have enjoyed average annual gains of 15% during the past 10 years, beating the index's 2.3% decline.

Investors sticking with the Focus Fund might hope that Heebner will regain his form and generate double-digit returns again. But they should keep in mind the sad tale of the

Legg Mason Value Trust

(LMVTX) - Get Free Report

. The fund's manager, Bill Miller, was deified in investment circles for outperforming the S&P 500 for 15 consecutive years. But his streak ended after 2005 and the fund has trailed the S&P by more than 12 percentage points a year, on average, since then. In 2008, it sank 55%. Ratings has assigned the CGM Focus Fund a grade of C on a scale from A-plus to E-minus. A year ago, the fund was rated B-plus.

The fund is now hanging it hopes on large holdings such as

Abbott Laboratories

(ABT) - Get Free Report



(MET) - Get Free Report


Wal-Mart Stores

(WMT) - Get Free Report


Richard Widows is a senior financial analyst for Ratings. Prior to joining, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.