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Burton Malkiel

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Burton Malkiel


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Burton Gordon Malkiel (born August 28, 1932) is an American economist and writer, most famous for his classic finance book A Random Walk Down Wall Street (now in its 12th edition, 2015). He is a leading proponent of the efficient-market hypothesis, which contends that prices of publicly traded assets reflect all publicly available information, although he has also pointed out that some markets are evidently inefficient, exhibiting signs of non-random walk.


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Malkiel in general supports buying and holding index funds as the most effective portfolio-management strategy, but does think it is viable to actively manage "around the edges" of such a portfolio, as financial markets are not totally efficient.

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Life and career

Malkiel is the Chemical Bank chairman's professor of economics at Princeton University, and is a two-time chairman of the economics department there. He served as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers (1975–1977), president of the American Finance Association (1978), and dean of the Yale School of Management (1981–1988). He also spent 28 years as a director of the Vanguard Group. He currently serves as Chief Investment Officer to software-based financial advisor, Wealthfront Inc. and as a member of the Investment Advisory Board for Rebalance IRA.

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In 1949, Malkiel graduated from Boston Latin School, and went on to receive his bachelor's degree (1953) and his MBA (1955) from Harvard University. He originally went into the business world, but had always had an interest in academic economics and eventually earned his doctorate (1964) from Princeton University. He married his first wife, Judith Atherton Malkiel, in 1954; they had one son, Jonathan. After Judith Malkiel's death in 1987, Burton Malkiel married his second wife, Nancy Weiss, in 1988. (Nancy Weiss Malkiel was Dean of the College of Princeton University from 1987 to 2011.) He served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army from 1955 to 1958. He also serves on the advisory panel of Robert D. Arnott's investment management firm, Research Affiliates.

Notable works

In addition to several books, he has also written influential articles, including "The Valuation of Closed-End Investment Company Shares," Journal of Finance (1977). This article discussed the puzzle of why closed-end fund companies typically trade at market valuations lower than the net value of their assets. If net asset value and market capitalization are only two ways of measuring the same thing, then why is there a consistent difference between them?

Malkiel discussed, and discarded, the hypothesis that the discount is due to the management fees. The argument of the paper is that since management fees are generally constant, this view would not explain changes in the size of the discount during the life-cycle of a fund. Furthermore, if the discount resulted from management fees, it should be related (Malkiel contended) to interest rates, yet the data do not support any such tie.

On July 22, 2005, Malkiel retired from 28 years of service as a director of the Vanguard Group and trustee of Vanguard Mutual funds, yet remains closely affiliated with Vanguard due to Vanguard's similar investment philosophies. In A Random Walk Down Wall Street, he frequently references Vanguard.

Malkiel recently co-authored a book on, and has spoken extensively about, investment opportunities in China. He is currently Chief Investment Officer of AlphaShares Investments, "an investment management firm dedicated to providing investors with strategies and products that allow them to participate in China's economic boom." AlphaShares has licensed indices to Claymore Securities as the basis for two China oriented index exchange traded funds (ETF's). Malkiel is a strong believer that, despite the uncertainties surrounding China (rural unrest, overinvestment/bubbles, non-democratic government) China is a viable source of investment opportunities. According to the efficient-market hypothesis, Chinese stocks cannot have better risk-adjusted returns than U.S. stocks, except by chance.


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