There is a mutual fund product in development that could only be imagined in the age of Cyberspace - a value fund that plans to use Internet message boards to assist individual investors to influence the actions of public companies.
Little-known Privateer Asset Management of New York, on Aug. 17, registered a mutual fund called The Allied Owners Action Fund with the SEC that will use a web site to provide stockholders a forum for shareholder activism.
The fund will be run by Aaron Brown, an instructor of finance at Yeshiva University in New York who also manages private money and has written about mutual funds for an online magazine. His wife, Deborah Pastor, who has helped Brown manage money for his private clients for the past two years, will help him manage the fund, according to SEC documents.
Brown formed Privateer recently with Martin Stoller, a professor from the management school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Stoller will oversee the Web site, called eRaider.com, which is owned by the two men, according to SEC filings.
The fund will buy large stakes in companies that it believes will benefit from "aggressive shareholder oversight," its prospectus says. Companies that qualify for investment will be those that have excessive capital, unresponsive or incompetent management or companies whose boards of directors are weak, the fund prospectus says.
When the fund has acquired the desired stake in the stock it wants to buy - about five percent - it will post the stock on the eRaider web site for discussion by fund shareholders, and anyone else who owns the stock, on a message board. It will also provide "extensive information [about] and analysis" of the stock to stir the debate, the prospectus said.
According to the fund's organizers, oversight in the form of message board chatter will help build the value of the stocks in the fund's portfolio.
"The best way to describe the fund... is that it has a pre-value strategy," the prospectus says. "The selection manager will look for companies in which value to shareholders is either obscured or impaired by lack of oversight. The fund intends that active, insightful participation on the eRaider site will unlock that value, making the stock attractive to value funds."
Brown, the fund's president, could not be reached for comment. Messages left at the number given for the fund's offices in the filing were not returned.
Companies may view the web site as an "organizer of takeover activities," according to the SEC filing. It also says the fund may come under fire from regulators like the SEC.
"Regulators may determine bulletin board organizers assume some responsibility for board content and, if affiliated with a mutual fund, attribute such content or portions to the fund itself," the prospectus says. "The fund intends at all times to remain separate from eRaider's activities."