We are delighted to hear that Professor William Birdthistle of the Chicago-Kent College of Law has been appointed to be Director of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management. The Division oversees regulatory policy for investment advisers and investment companies, including mutual funds and other investment products and services relied upon by retail investors.
Professor Birdthistle is one of the most knowledgeable and thoughtful experts in this field. VEA Vice Chair Nell Minow interviewed him about his superb book, Empire of the Fund. She wrote:
If I could assign every politician running for office this year one book to read, it would be Professor William Birdthistle’s Empire of the Fund: The Way We Save Now, the story of the avalanche of money poured into mutual funds and the staggering inadequacy of the results as the baby boomers approach retirement. He calls it “the richest and riskiest experiment in our financial history.”
The consequences of this failed experiment affect every aspect of the US economy, as investor funds are diverted to pay costly hidden fees, capital is inefficiently allocated, and critical elements of accountability between the investor and the money manager and the money manager and the companies in the investment portfolio have all but disappeared.
The book is witty and accessible, citing sources from Jane Austen to Angry Birds and Ronco infomercials. He even has a rap video. But it is a comprehensive and powerful indictment of a system that has been distorted to look like pure capitalism when it is really subsidizing an increasingly ineffective financial services industry.