Controversial dual-class stocks get their very own ETF
Companies with multiple classes of shares have stoked outrage among investor advocacy groups in recent years. Now there’s an ETF for them.
Known for its thematic products, Exchange Traded Concepts is repurposing a fund that currently focuses on forensic accounting and renaming it the North Shore Dual Share Class ETF (DUAL), according to a statement to the SEC on Friday. The fund will track the performance of companies that issue at least two types of shares incorporated in the U.S. — usually one to the investing public and the other to the company’s founders and executives.
By slashing fees, custodians are also eliminating special ETF platforms they had spent the past five years building out.
The move follows similar offers from other major brokerages in the last two weeks, as firms race to woo clients with the lowest-priced products possible.
Such structures — made popular by the likes of Google parent Alphabet — have come under fire for their unequal voting rights. Startups in particular have used multiple share classes to go public without ceding their founders’ control. Advocates say the strategy is advantageous to the company’s growth and development.
“There’s a few popular studies on how family-controlled companies tend to outperform non-family-controlled businesses,” said Andy Wester, senior investment analyst at Proficio Capital Partners. “Certainly it’s an interesting exercise in governance monitoring. Typically, those dual-class share companies are called out for governance issues, whether it be one class of non-voting stock or one class of super-voting stock.”
DUAL is currently known as the FLAG-Forensic Accounting Long-Short ETF (FLAG). In its new iteration, it will track the North Shore Dual Share Class Index, which has returned 38% in the past 12 months.
Index providers are grappling with how to respond to companies with multiple share classes. In 2017, S&P Global banned dual share companies from joining its indexes, including the S&P 500. FTSE Russell, a unit of London Stock Exchange, has said that public shareholders must control at least 5% of a firm’s voting rights to be eligible for its gauges.
MSCI considered penalizing these companies, but decided to introduce a new series of benchmarks that specifically include voting rights in their eligibility criteria and construction methodology.