Every mutual fund family talks the talk about meeting the fiduciary responsibilities of its investors, but the current scandal shows that not all families walk the walk. For all the investors who want to know where their fund firms rank, now there's a way.
Fiduciary Analytics, a Pittsburgh-based organization that provides fiduciary training and research to pension plan sponsors and investment advisers, released its first Mutual Fund Family Fiduciary Rankings on Tuesday -- ranking 255 firms from first to worst. Don Trone, founder and president of Fiduciary Analytics, said the firm conducted the extensive study due to the groundswell of investors and retirement-plan fiduciaries asking what to do with funds from families implicated in the scandal. "Not surprisingly, the funds that have been implicated didn't rank very well," Trone said. Vanguard and T. Rowe Price ( TROW) did the best among the big fund families, ranking No. 8 and No. 20. The study measured individual funds according to eight due-diligence screens -- including performance, manager tenure and expenses -- and ranked funds within their peer group as "passed," "acceptable," "watch" or "replace." Fiduciary Analytics then ranked the fund families based on the percentage of their funds that merited either "passed" or "acceptable," the top two categories. Of Vanguard's 100 funds, 85% were in the "passed/acceptable" camps, while 71% of T. Rowe Price's 83 funds made the cut. " Vanguard founder John Bogle always talks about meeting the fiduciary responsibilities of Vanguard's investors, and this ranking is a vindication," Trone said. Also turning up among the top 50 were American Funds Group (No. 31, with 62% of its funds making the top two categories) and Fidelity (No. 48, with 50% of its funds making the cut). Scandal-tainted shops didn't fare so well. Janus ( JNS) had a mere 30% of its 43 funds making the "passed" or "acceptable" grades, which nonetheless was good enough to rank it as No. 103 out of 255. Putnam ranked No. 137, with 23% of its funds landing in the top two categories, while Alliance Capital's ( AC) Alliance Bernstein funds ranked No. 178, with 18% of the funds making the cut.
Pulling up the rear among the scandal-plagued funds was Amvescap ( AVZ) unit Invesco, which ranked No. 225, with less than 2% of its 43 funds ranking "passed" or "acceptable." ( TheStreet.com raised red flags about Invesco funds back in October. For more details,
click here.) TheStreet.com favorite Matthews Asian funds ranked No. 1, while five families, including Kinetics and Van Wagoner, tied for dead last. Here's a link to the entire list. A few points of note: Certain fund firms that TheStreet.com has touted, such as Dodge & Cox and Mairs & Power, don't turn up on the list. Trone explained that the screen included fund families with at least five mutual funds. Dodge & Cox has only four funds and Mairs & Power has only two -- however, the firms would have ranked in the top 20 had they been included. Another interesting point: The rankings didn't factor in the scandal in any quantifiable way -- no points were taken off for market-timing. Essentially, the rankings suggest that allowing abusive trading and failing to measure up from a fiduciary responsibility standpoint go hand in hand. The top 10 fund firms, in order, were: Matthews Asian Funds; Advance Capital I Group; Bridgeway Funds; Elfun Funds; Oakmark Funds; RS Funds; TD Waterhouse Funds; Vanguard Group; Undiscovered Managers Funds; and Wasatch Funds.