Research Handbook on the Regulation of Mutual Funds
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Research Handbook on the Regulation of Mutual Funds

Edited by William A. Birdthistle and John Morley

The growth of mutual funds has been a truly global phenomenon and deserves a broad international analysis. Local political economies and legal regimes have created different regulatory preferences for the oversight of these funds, and academics, public officials, and legal practitioners wishing to understand the global investing environment need an appreciation for these international differences. This Handbook addresses these and several other issues concerning mutual funds. The contributors, leading scholars in the field of investment law from around the world, provide a current legal analysis of funds from a variety of perspectives and using an array of methodologies that consider the large fundamental questions governing the role and regulation of investments funds as well identity and behavior of investors and issues surrounding less orthodox funds, such as money market funds, ETFs, and private funds.
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Chapter 12: Free funds: retirement savings as public infrastructure

William A. Birdthistle


The chapter explores the possibility of a new public or eleemosynary infrastructure to support private investment in funds. Specifically, it proposes and explores the concept of an investment fund provided to citizens as a service with zero investment advisory fees. The viability and advisability of free funds turn on three large questions: first, whether mutual funds with no fee are financially viable; second, whether they ought to exist; and third, who or what entities should serve as their sponsor. The chapter argues that free funds are theoretically plausible, inasmuch as funds with very low expense ratios could offset remaining net expenses with revenues from operations such as securities lending. In light of the central role of private investing today, it argues for experimentation with pilot fund, under the aegis of a nonprofit or governmental sponsor.

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