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Study Finds Some Funds Chase Dividends, Disadvantage Investors

Researchers have found that some funds appear to engage in a practice called “juicing,” or increasing dividend payments by purchasing stocks just before the ex-dividend date. To determine which funds engaged in juicing, researchers examined the dividends distributed for each fund each year (each a “fund-year”) compared to the dividends that would have been received based on the fund’s quarterly holdings. While acknowledging that intra-quarter trading could account for some of the disparity, researchers concluded that funds with significantly higher dividends than their quarterly holdings report would imply were “juicing.” The analysis indicated that distributions in 7.4% percent of fund-years amounted to more than twice the expected dividend, and that 28.5% of fund-years showed juicing at some level of significance. Additionally, the authors found that a fund that juiced during one year were much more likely to do so in others. 

The study also found that funds with twice the expected dividends experience inflows 12.2% greater than “funds with similar observable characteristics.” The authors found that juicing is less likely in funds with an institutional class of shares. Even though juicing could have produced abnormal returns, the researchers also noted that funds that “juice” often perform worse than those that do not.  The authors proposed that the lower returns may be due to transaction costs or the tax incentives to hold securities for more than 60-days, during which the security may be likely to decline in value relative to the pre-dividend price. Indeed, funds with dividend returns at twice the expected rate had transaction costs of 17% higher than funds that did not “juice.” The researchers found that funds that engaged in juicing could have provided investors with similar income streams with fewer tax consequences. The study estimated that the practice leads to a 0.57% increase in investor taxes for that highest tier when compared to distributing the same level of invested capital.

The paper can be found here and a recent Wall Street Journal article on the paper can be found here