mutual funds, governance, advisory fee, board of directors, soft dollar, brokerage commission, adviser, SEC


This dissertation consists of three studies related to corporate governance of equity mutual funds in a framework of relations between the three closely interrelated actors of mutual fund industry. The mutual fund advisers, the shareholders and the mutual fund board being the advocate of shareholders rights. The first study analyzes the advisory fee, using a survivorship bias free data set of 176 equity funds managed by 125 different advisers. The price of professional portfolio management provided by the mutual fund adviser depends not only on the fund characteristics but also on the fund objective, the adviser's portfolio related and management based decisions, and the portfolio performance. I find that the advisers may reduce their own costs through the use of derivatives or manipulate the actual fee contract by engaging in soft dollar agreements. Advisers actively manage the advisory fee contracts responding to the outcome of their management decisions. The advisory fee increases after voluntary fee reimbursement or if the adviser is not fully reimbursed for certain services. Risk taking behavior is the main motivation behind the structure of advisory contracts. Also, I show that non-surviving funds have higher advisory fees, suggesting competitive fee pricing may be necessary for survival. The second study focuses on the relation between general board characteristics, independent director characteristics and the advisory fee which is solely an outcome of the negotiations between the fund board and the adviser, thus a good proxy for the governance skills of the board. I also examine the impact of SEC's regulation change of 2000. Mutual fund scandals that took place after the regulation change of 2000 suggested that besides the fraction of independent seats, the individual characteristics of the members that occupy board seats are crucial for mutual fund board governance. I find that boards benchmark objective average fee but not necessarily for the best interest of shareholders. Shareholders are likely to benefit from the expertise of members with higher tenure and finance backgrounds. Although increase in board independence is likely to contribute to board governance, the effect of 2000 regulation change of board independence on its arguably target group is limited. Nominating committee improves the board governance. Although the results do not suggest that an independent chairman directly improves board governance, I find modest evidence that the impact of an independent chairman is likely to depend on the expertise of the member that would occupy the chairman seat. Third study analyzes a specific tool, soft dollar arrangements using a survivorship bias free data set of 432 equity funds managed by 129 different advisers. Soft dollar arrangements affect all three actors of mutual fund industry. They are widely used by the advisers, have to be monitored closely by the fund board and eventually affect the overall wealth of shareholders. Fund advisers determine the broker base, scope of brokerage services and whether to self produce or outsource brokerage services through soft dollar arrangements. In return, shareholders expect to benefit from better fund performance and reduction in advisory fee. I find that transaction execution not necessarily motivated by additional brokerage services is likely to be responsible for high turnover. Construction of brokerage base by the adviser is not arbitrary. Advisers ex ante construct the broker base in order to minimize the brokerage commissions and considering ex post soft dollar arrangements. Transaction execution related services lead to less brokerage commissions and soft dollar use while both increase if research is a consideration for broker participation. More concentrated broker base leads to lower brokerage fee and higher soft dollar use. Results indicate that advisers enforce competition within brokerage industry for lower cost of transaction execution. Shareholders benefit from increasing soft dollar use through performance improvement and reduction in advisory fee. Yet, the cost of soft dollar arrangements seems to exceed their benefit to shareholders. If the results indicate competition within brokerage industry for lower cost of transaction execution, the undisclosed premium paid for the additional services are likely to be responsible for this adverse effect.


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Graduation Date





Frye, Melissa


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Business Administration



Degree Program

Business Administration








Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)