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Varying Opinions on Portfolio Disclosure

July 27, 2001|Josh Friedman

The mutual fund industry's main trade group says there is "virtually no demand" among shareholders for increased disclosure of portfolio holdings.

But visitors to fund tracker Morningstar Inc.'s Web site, http://www.morningstar.com, apparently see it differently.

Only 13% of the roughly 1,100 respondents to a Morningstar poll this week said the current requirement that fund managers reveal the stocks they own only twice a year is adequate, said Russel Kinnel, the firm's director of fund analysis.

The survey posted Monday asked readers whether they'd like funds to disclose portfolios yearly, semiannually, quarterly, monthly or weekly. The largest group, 44%, chose quarterly, while 35% voted for monthly and 7% picked weekly. Ten percent picked semiannually and 3% picked annually, according to the results released Thursday. (All numbers are rounded.)

"The Investment Company Institute says no one is requesting more disclosure, but I hear the requests every day," Kinnel said. "On our product support line people are always calling and asking why they see fresh portfolios for one fund but not for another."

In a letter July 17 urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to reject a petition drive calling for monthly fund disclosure, the ICI said there was little public demand for stricter rules, which it said would harm, rather than help, investors.

Though fund companies are required to report holdings twice a year, many do so more frequently, to third parties such as Morningstar as well as to shareholders directly.

Still, reports on stock holdings can be as stale as eight months old, since funds have a two-month window in which to make their semiannual reports.

The SEC is expected to respond as early as this summer to the campaign led by the shareholder advocate firm Fund Democracy.

In its letter to the SEC, the ICI said stiffer disclosure rules would hurt investors by facilitating practices such as "front-running"--for example, buying stocks that funds are gradually building a position in, thus driving up the price--and "piggybacking" on funds' proprietary research.

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