The fate of the world’s largest exchange-traded fund rests on the health of a group of twenty-somethings.

Thanks to a quirk in the legal structure used to set up the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust, known as SPY, more than $250 billion rests on the longevity of 11 ordinary kids born between May 1990 and January 1993.

Those children are now carving out careers in public relations, restaurants and sales, spread around the country from Boston and Philadelphia to Alabama and Utah. But none of the eight spoken to by Bloomberg News was aware of their role in investing history.

“Today was the first I heard about this,” said Alexander Most, 27, who’s about to start graduate school, studying education, policy and management. “Has it made me think about my mortality? Absolutely, in terms of projecting when this thing might end.”

It all harks back to the arcane structure used to create SPY, the first U.S. ETF, in 1993. The fund was set up as a unit investment trust, which requires a specified termination. Like many such trusts, the fund was initially structured to expire in 25 years -- in January 2018 -- but pegging the fund to the lives of individuals extended its own life.

SPY as we know it will cease to be on Jan. 22, 2118, or 20 years “after the death of the last survivor of the eleven persons” -- whichever occurs first. The structure doesn’t provide those people with a financial interest in SPY.

At least 8 of the 11 named in SPY’s documents have a family connection to the American Stock Exchange, which structured the first ETF and was bought by NYSE Euronext in 2008. For example, Most -- the grad student -- is the grandson of Nathan Most, one of the creators of SPY. State Street Corp. referred requests for comment on plans to deal with the fund’s end to NYSE, which declined to comment.

Claire McGrath was a lawyer in the options division of the AMEX in the early nineties. She remembers a call going out for babies’ names that could be used by the trust and volunteered her son, Kevin, and two nephews, Paul and Peter Pavelka.

“I had my son, and they asked if I would mind if they used him,” McGrath said. “It’s interesting because it’s an arcane rule that trusts always have to deal with, but it’s not a big deal. At the time, when we were creating these things, we had no idea they would become as spectacular.”

Kevin now works in PR in New York, while Paul and Peter are based in Philadelphia, tending bar at a trendy restaurant and working for the city’s water department, respectively. Birmingham, Alabama-based siblings Rian and John Imwalle also ended up on the list (their late step-grandmother, Marilyn, worked for the corporate communications team) as did Emily Weber, whose father Cliff Weber worked at the AMEX and later NYSE for more than two decades.

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