Skip to content
SuperMoney logo
SuperMoney logo

Portfolio Pumping: Definition, Impact, and Regulatory Measures

Last updated 03/24/2024 by

Alessandra Nicole

Edited by

Fact checked by

Portfolio pumping, also known as “painting the tape,” is a deceptive practice where investment managers artificially inflate portfolio performance by purchasing large amounts of shares in existing positions shortly before the end of the reporting period. This article delves into the intricacies of portfolio pumping, its historical context, real-world examples, regulatory actions, impact on Morningstar ratings, and penalties associated with the scheme.

Understanding portfolio pumping

Portfolio pumping, often termed “painting the tape,” involves manipulative tactics by investment managers to inflate the reported performance of their investment portfolios. This strategy entails purchasing significant quantities of shares in existing positions shortly before the conclusion of a reporting period.

How portfolio pumping works

Consider a scenario where an investment fund holds shares of XYZ Corporation, initially purchased at $10 per share. Suppose the market value of these shares declines to $7 prior to the reporting period. In such cases, unscrupulous managers may engage in portfolio pumping by placing large buy orders for the stock at inflated bid prices, such as $14 per share. This artificial demand artificially inflates the fund’s performance temporarily, providing a misleading portrayal of its actual performance.

History of portfolio pumping

The phenomenon of portfolio pumping gained significant attention following the publication of a seminal article in 2002, titled “Leaning for the Tape: Evidence of Gaming Behavior in Equity Mutual Funds.” This research shed light on widespread gaming behavior within equity mutual funds, prompting regulatory bodies to intensify oversight efforts.

Continued challenges

Despite regulatory scrutiny, portfolio pumping persists due to certain fund managers exploiting legal loopholes. A 2017 study revealed how some managers continued to engage in portfolio pumping by leveraging regulatory gaps. Additionally, the advent of high-frequency trading technologies has facilitated more sophisticated forms of portfolio pumping.

Real-world example

An illustrative case of portfolio pumping involves the SEC charging hedge fund Archer Advisors LLC in 2014. The scheme revolved around placing multiple buy orders on thinly traded stocks before market closing, artificially inflating their values. Perpetrators faced fines and trading license suspensions as penalties.

Penalties for portfolio pumping

Penalties for engaging in portfolio pumping include fines, trading license suspensions, and bans from the securities industry. Fines are typically proportional to the amount defrauded from investors and serve as a deterrent against such unethical practices.

Impact on Morningstar ratings

Some mutual funds resort to portfolio pumping to manipulate their Morningstar ratings. By inflating month-end values, these funds aim to influence Morningstar’s rating cut-offs, thereby misleading investors about their actual performance.
Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
  • Raises awareness about deceptive investment practices
  • Encourages regulatory oversight
  • Highlights the importance of transparency in financial reporting
  • Erodes investor trust
  • Distorts market performance metrics
  • May lead to legal repercussions for perpetrators

Frequently asked questions

Does portfolio pumping manipulate Morningstar fund ratings?

Yes, studies indicate that certain mutual funds engage in portfolio pumping to artificially inflate their Morningstar ratings, deceiving investors about their true performance.

What is a pump and dump scheme?

A pump and dump scheme involves artificially inflating the value of a stock through misleading tactics, followed by selling off shares at inflated prices to unsuspecting investors.

Is marking the close illegal?

Yes, marking the close is deemed illegal by the SEC, as it involves attempting to influence the closing price of a stock through manipulative trading practices, thereby distorting market dynamics.

Key takeaways

  • Portfolio pumping involves artificially inflating the reported performance of investment portfolios through deceptive practices.
  • Regulatory efforts to curb portfolio pumping face challenges due to legal loopholes and advancements in trading technologies.
  • Penalties for engaging in portfolio pumping include fines, trading license suspensions, and bans from the securities industry.
  • Some mutual funds resort to portfolio pumping to manipulate Morningstar ratings, deceiving investors about fund performance.

You might also like