Paul G. Mahoney

Advisers by Another Name

CO-AUTHORS Adriana Robertson
Harvard Business Law Review


The rise of index funds has reshaped the modern American capital markets. Like mutual fund managers, indices now direct trillions of dollars of investor capital. Although it regulates mutual fund managers as investment advisers, the SEC has chosen not to treat the providers of market indices similarly. In this Article, we argue that many index providers are not merely like investment advisers; under the relevant statutory and regulatory regimes, they are investment advisers. The SEC’s failure to recognize this fact reflects an inaccurate and antiquated view of the index fund market. Having established that certain index providers are presently acting as unregulated investment advisers, we propose a regulatory solution. The SEC should create a nonexclusive, conditional safe harbor giving index providers guidance on what activities will and will not make them investment advisers. This would close the regulatory gap in a way that is consistent with the governing statutes and case law without unduly burdening market participants.


Paul G. Mahoney & Adriana Robertson, Advisers by Another Name, Harvard Business Law Review (2021).

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