Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Schwab YieldPlus Funds Tank

For years, Charles Schwab marketed the YieldPlus funds as "a safe alternative to money market funds that preserve principal while being designed with your income needs in mind." Charles Schwab also represented that its YieldPlus funds were designed to provide "high current income with minimal changes in share price."

The Schwab YieldPlus Fund Investor Shares (SWYPX), and Schwab YieldPlus Fund Select Shares (SWYSX) have declined over 30% since July of 2007. Unfortunately for investors these funds had large investments in risky mortgage-backed securities. Morningstar now ranks these two funds as last among ultra-short-term bond funds. So much for the Schwab claim in the marketing literature, “The [YieldPlus] funds provide higher yields on your cash with only marginally higher risk [and therefore] could be a smart alternative.

An earlier HingeFire article from October (see Grandma’s Money Market Fund feels the SIV pinch) outlined the risks of brokerage money market funds, and why investors should be wary of these instruments.

Now Schwab is offering investors a mere 5 to 12 cents on the dollar of their losses, and demanding that the account holders quickly take the offer. This, of course, drove investors to contact law firms to launch class action suits on their behalf.