Inheriting Losers
Review of Financial Studies, 2011

In this paper, Assistant Professor Anna Scherbina and co-author Li Jin from Harvard Business School show that new managers who take over mutual fund portfolios sell off inherited momentum losers at higher rates than stocks in any other momentum decile, even after adjusting for concurrent trades in these stocks by continuing fund managers.

This behavior is observed regardless of fund characteristics and is stronger when new managers are external hires. The tendency of continuing fund managers to hold on to losers could be consistent with either a behavior bias stemming from an inability to ignore the sunk costs associated with the stocks’ past underperformance or a conscious desire to protect their careers by not admitting prior mistakes. Furthermore, the authors present evidence that selling off loser stocks helps improve fund performance.