By Richard Loth (Contact | Biography)

Historians are uncertain of the origins of investment funds. There are some indications that the idea of pooling assets for investment purposes began in the Netherlands in the late 18th or early 19th century. Closed-end investment funds did take root in Great Britain and France in the 1800s, making their way to the United States in the 1890s. (For more insight, see Uncovering Closed-End Funds.)

The creation of the Massachusetts Investors' Trust in Boston in 1924, which went public in 1928, is cited as the arrival of the modern mutual fund in the U.S. In 1929, there were 19 open-ended funds competing with nearly 700 of the closed-end variety. The market crash of 1929 wiped out the highly leveraged closed-end funds, but a small number of opened-ended funds managed to survive.

The creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the passage of the Securities Act of 1934 and the Investment Company Act of 1940 put the mutual fund business on a solid regulatory basis with safeguards for investors. In the early 1950s, the mutual fund count topped 100 and continued to grow through the next two decades. The bull markets of the 1980s and 1990s accelerated this growth, pushing the fund count over 3,000, with total assets surpassing the $1 trillion mark during this period.

In response to the mutual fund scandals of the 2003-2004 period, corrective regulatory and industry practices were, and continue to be, enacted. By the end of 2006, the mutual fund business was still growing and mutual funds in the U. S. numbered more than 8,000 with asset holdings of $10.4 trillion and new markets opening up around the world. (For related reading, see A Brief History Of The Mutual Fund.)

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