Half of all of U.S. households own shares in one or more mutual funds, either directly or through personal or employer-sponsored retirement accounts. This article describes the structure and regulation of mutual funds and the resulting incentives facing those who make decisions for the funds. After providing some basic institutional details, it focuses on the cash flows from mutual fund investors to fund managers, brokers, and other third parties and the associated conflicts of interest. The article concludes with a summary of recent legal proceedings against mutual fund managers and brokers based on improper trading practices and regulatory proposals to curb those practices.
The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.