Researchers affiliated with the Stanford Graduate School of Business say that while mutual funds take proxy votes for boards of directors seriously, they also want to be in line with other funds they compete with.

Gregor Matvos, a Harvard doctoral candidate, and Michael Ostrovsky, an assistant professor of economics at Stanford, analyzed three million votes cast by 3,600 mutual funds between 2003 and 2005. Besides finding that certain fund families tend to be more critical of management than others—withholding votes for individual board members more frequently—the researchers said that funds also tend to vote in “clusters,” with a concentrated number withholding votes.

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