NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Market for Financial Advice: An Audit Study

Sendhil Mullainathan, Markus Noeth, Antoinette Schoar

NBER Working Paper No. 17929
Issued in March 2012
NBER Program(s):   AP   CF

Do financial advisers undo or reinforce the behavioral biases and misconceptions of their clients? We use an audit methodology where trained auditors meet with financial advisers and present different types of portfolios. These portfolios reflect either biases that are in line with the financial interests of the advisers (e.g., returns-chasing portfolio) or run counter to their interests (e.g., a portfolio with company stock or very low-fee index funds). We document that advisers fail to de-bias their clients and often reinforce biases that are in their interests. Advisers encourage returns-chasing behavior and push for actively managed funds that have higher fees, even if the client starts with a well-diversified, low-fee portfolio.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17929

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