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Rekenthaler Report

Faint Praise, Indeed, for Active Management

Unpacking Charley Ellis' 'defense' of active investing.

The Case Against
This month, Charley Ellis published "In Defense of Active Investing." The headline intrigues because Ellis is an indexing legend. In 1975, he wrote that active investing is "The Loser's Game." The article became an instant classic and was later incorporated into the curriculum for Chartered Financial Analysts candidates.

"The Loser's Game" argued that investment success lies not in hitting the most winners, as it's very difficult to strike winners while competing against hordes of other informed investors, but rather in minimizing the "losers" of turnover, costs, and taxes. (All right, taxes are my addition, as 1970s institutional investors never considered the subject, but Ellis would certainly have discussed them had he thought about retail accounts.)