Taking a leap of faith : are investors left short changed?

Nainggolan, Yunieta Anny (2011) Taking a leap of faith : are investors left short changed? PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This dissertation examines the compliance and performance of a large sample of faith based (religious) ethical funds - the Shari'ah-compliant equity funds (SEFs), which may be viewed as a form of ethical investing. SEFs screen their investment for compliance with Islamic law, where riba (conventional interest expense), maysir (gambling), gharar (excessive uncertainty), and non-halal (non-ethical) products are prohibited. Using a set of stringent Shari'ah screens similar to those of MSCI Islamic, we first examine the extent to which SEFs comply with the Shari'ah law. Results show that only about 27% of the equities held by SEFs are Shari'ah-compliant. While most of the fund holdings pass the business screens, only about 42% pass the total debt to total assets ratio screen. This finding suggests that, in order to overcome a significant reduction in the investment opportunity, Shari'ah principles are compromised, with SEFs adopting lax screening rules so as to achieve a financial performance. While younger funds and funds that charge higher fees and are domiciled in more Muslim countries are more Shari'ah-compliant, we find little evidence of a positive relationship between fund disclosure of the Shari'ah compliance framework and Shari'ah-compliance. Clearly, Shari'ah compliance remains a major challenge for fund managers and SEF investors should be aware of Shari'ah-compliance risk since the fund managers do not always fulfill their fiduciary obligation, as promised in their prospectus. Employing a matched firm approach for a survivorship free sample of 387 SEFs, we then examine an issue that has been heavily debated in the literature: Does ethical screening reduce investment performance? Results show that it does but only by an average of 0.04% per month if benchmarked against matched conventional funds - this is a relatively small price to pay for religious faith. Cross-sectional regressions show an inverse relationship between Shari'ah compliance and fund performance: every one percentage increase in total compliance decreases fund performance by 0.01% per month. However, compliance fails to explain differences in the performance between SEFs and matched funds. Although SEFs do not generally perform better during crisis periods, further analysis shows evidence of better performance relative to conventional funds only during the recent Global Financial Crisis; the latter is consistent with popular media claims.

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ID Code: 49718
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Verhoeven, Peter & How, Janice
Additional Information: Recipient of 2011 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award
Keywords: accounting screens, business screens, conventional equity fund (CEF), ethical equity fund (EEF), fund performance, Islamic financial institution (IFI), religious equity fund (REF), shari’ah advisory board (SAB), shari’ah compliance, shari’ah framework, shari’ah-compliant equity fund (SEF), socially responsible investment (SRI), ODTA
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Economics & Finance
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 16 Apr 2012 06:05
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2013 04:35

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