Trust Assets:

Investment of Trust Assets in Bank Proprietary Mutual Funds

GGD-95-21: Published: Mar 16, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 16, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the extent to which banks have invested trust assets into proprietary mutual funds, focusing on: (1) the disclosure and consent requirements that apply when trust assets are invested into these funds; (2) whether double fees on invested trust assets are legal; and (3) the regulatory controls that prevent banks from acting in their own self-interest.

GAO found that: (1) most banks have not invested trust assets in proprietary mutual funds; (2) the majority of funds invested in bank proprietary mutual funds are from non-trust assets; (3) by the end of 1992, about $24 billion in trust assets had been used to start up proprietary mutual funds which represented about 15 percent of the total assets in these funds; (4) the bank industry believed the trust asset investments were understated because the estimates did not take into account conversions and new trust investments; (5) in 1993, about $45 billion in employee benefit and personal trust assets were invested in short-term money market mutual funds; (6) industry and regulatory officials believe that trust investments are becoming more attractive to investors for tax reasons; (7) investment disclosure requirements vary by state and most states that allow proprietary mutual fund investments do not require beneficiary consent; (8) although 8 states are in compliance with the double fee prohibitions on employee accounts, 27 states allow double fees to be charged; (9) most banks lack incentives to charge double fees because of competition and the possibility of federal penalties and beneficiary lawsuits; (10) when investing trust assets, banks are prohibited from acting in their own self-interest, must justify their investments, and are subject to federal review; and (11) the effectiveness of trust examinations could not be determined, since the number of examinations are limited and use of proprietary mutual funds in trusts is new.

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