Will Swing Pricing Save Sedentary Shareholders?

Tucker, Anne M.; Van Den Toom, Holly

This Article explains and explores new Securities Exchange Commission rules authorizing optional swing pricing for mutual funds. Swing pricing is an anti-dilution tool intended to protect sedentary investors who enter, and stay, in a fund. Workers setting aside money for retirement are often sedentary investors. Mutual funds are the mainstay vehicle for retirement investors, yet as sedentary shareholders they can experience significant asset dilution over their savings lifetime. Swing pricing—a mutual fund pricing mechanism that allocates transaction costs to the triggering shareholders—could save sedentary shareholders, collectively, billions of dollars.

The mutual fund industry’s operational complexities and competing regulatory obligations may prevent funds from immediately utilizing swing pricing once it becomes effective in November 2018. The biggest obstacle is a time conflict reminiscent of the chicken and egg problem. Under current industry operations, mutual funds will not receive the trading information necessary to adjust the daily price of the fund (swing the price) until after funds have to finalize the price adjustment. Blockchain technology—offering secure, automated, and verified ledgers—may present an operational path forward for the industry.

The SEC’s swing pricing approach leaves unanswered how funds will overcome these, and other, hurdles. This Article explores the components of swing pricing, as well as the objections to and perceived benefits of swing pricing, and concludes with two unique perspectives on the SEC rules: one academic and one professional. This Article maintains that mutual funds should take on the challenge of implementing swing pricing, and that market incentives will pave the way.

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Columbia Business Law Review

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November 26, 2019