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Finance and Economics Discussion Series
The Finance and Economics Discussion Series logo links to FEDS home page Compensation Incentives and Risk Taking Behavior: Evidence from Mutual Funds
Athanasios Orphanides

Abstract: This paper examines the role of compensation contracts in determining risk taking decisions by money managers in the financial industry. A methodology is developed for empirically testing and assessing the magnitude of the effect that incentive contracts have on risk taking in the mutual fund industry using panel data. The methodology exploits the within-year cross sectional variation in the performance of mutual funds to identify systematic time series variation in risk taking. Growth and growth and income mutual funds in the 1976 to 1993 period are examined. The evidence suggests that incentive compensation has substantial influence on risk decisions. A strong seasonal component on average risk is present with risk reaching a peak in the first quarter of the year. However the relationship between within-year performance, especially towards year-end, appears to have changed over time. For losing managers, excess risk taking appears early in the sample but not in later years. For winning managers, reductions in risk taking appears towards year-end in later years but not early in the sample.

Keywords: Risk taking, compensation incentives, mutual fund performance

Full paper (267 KB PDF) | Full paper (260 KB Postscript)

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Last update: July 16, 1997