The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved a new rule on Wednesday requiring mutual fund companies to provide more balanced information in their advertisements when promoting fund performance.
The new rule, which was adopted with a 4-0 vote, will require that firms advertise a phone number or Web site where investors can go to get more timely information on performance. Most advertisements currently contain performance for the previous ten, five and one year periods. Several also include year-to-date numbers, but those figures are often lagging by a few months, dating back to the end of the most recently completed quarter. The new requirement calls for all the numbers available on the site or phone to be as current as the end of the most recent month.
The fund companies will also have to make it clearer to investors that past performance is not an indicator of future performance. They will have to detail more of the funds risks, costs and goals as well.
Performance advertisements had all but disappeared during the bear market, when returns were so hideous, fund companies chose to focus on fundamentals. However, regulators began to notice performance ads started popping up following the market recovery that began in March and has sustained itself so far this year. Firms like Smith Barney and Fidelity Investments ran ads highlighting extraordinary year-to-date performance. Regulators had become increasingly worried that these lofty numbers would create unrealistic expectations, the same craze that got investors in trouble back when the bubble burst.