It's been two years since Morningstar began issuing its stewardship grades, where the Chicago-based analyst rates mutual funds on items ranging from regulatory issues to corporate cultures, and along the way they've picked up a few, little-known tidbits about some well-known funds.
For example, San Francisco's Dodge & Cox is among one of the 10 largest shops by assets, yet it does virtually no marketing - it doesn't even employ a sales staff - and has had just four funds in its 70 years of existence. If the industry wants proof that performance, not marketing, sells, it need not look any further than D&C.
Not only is Bridgeway Funds one of the industry's leading philanthropists - it donates half of its profits to charity - there's a standing rule at the Houston-based shop that its highest-paid employee cannot earn more than seven times the salary of its lowest paid employee. The policy all but eliminates the risk of excessive executive pay packages.
Speaking of hefty paychecks, Alliance Bernstein trustee William Foulk, Jr. received an 87% pay raise between the end of 2003 and 2004, or a bump from $248,650 to $465,250, for agreeing to serve as its independent chairman. And then there's the seemingly underpaid Fergus Reid. Between his roles as a trustee on the fund boards at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan, he oversees 300 portfolios, which is in addition to his day job as chairman of Lumelite Plastics.
Renowned cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong inked a marketing deal with American Century recently, but a couple of other famous faces are playing key roles at the company. Former Chicago Bears running back and NFL Hall of Famer Gayle Sayers serves on an American Century board, and Nobel Prize-wining economist Myron Scholes is on another board at the Kansas City, Mo., firm.
Finally, in a compensation arrangement that Morningstar considers a big no-no, FBR Funds bases its portfolio managers' bonus on the average net assets in the fund. That creates an incentive for them to spend more time marketing and less time investing, Morningstar asserts, and conflicts with its shareholders' best interests.