“Why are the so-called expert investors in India so disinterested in ESG funds?”. A young investor asked me this question at a recent event and it gave me food for thought. It is true that at PrimeInvestor, we are not fans of ESG investing either. We don’t go out of our way to cover ESG funds or ‘green’ bonds and deposits, unless they offer great returns.
While one doesn’t know enough yet to comment on the veracity of these allegations, this does shine the spotlight on the issue of governance at mutual funds. There’s a lot of song and dance on whether listed public companies are managed in the interests of their shareholders. But what about mutual funds?
MFs are essentially custodians of public money, where both profits and losses are entirely passed on to unitholders. I give money to a fund manager to deliver a certain return from an asset class. But I am paying a fixed fee to him which he gets whether he does better or worse than the market. This pass-through nature of mutual funds means that the unitholder is most affected when the fund is mis-governed or mis-managed.
We upset a few of you with our call on some of the Axis funds last week 😊 Some of you commented on the blog and others raised tickets. We thought it would be better for us to respond through an article for the benefit of others as well.
Axis Mutual Fund issued a public notice removing and replacing two of its fund managers, Viresh Joshi and Deepak Agarwal, from seven of its schemes — Banking, Technology, Consumption, and Nifty ETFs and Axis Value, Quant and Arbitrage Funds. This move was accompanied by speculation that the managers were suspended on front-running charges. Axis Mutual Fund hasn’t explicitly mentioned front-running charges, but it has confirmed that it has been investigating “potential irregularities” with the help of external advisors.