Monday, March 11, 2019

SEC Share Class Initiative Returning More Than $125 Million to Investors

The SEC has settled charges against 79 investment advisers who will return more than $125 million to clients, with a substantial majority of the funds going to retail investors.

The actions stem from the SEC’s Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative, which the SEC’s Division of Enforcement announced in February 2018 in an effort to identify and promptly correct ongoing harm in the sale of mutual fund shares by investment advisers. The initiative incentivized investment advisers to self-report violations of the Advisers Act resulting from undisclosed conflicts of interest, promptly compensate investors, and review and correct fee disclosures. The orders issued today address advisers who directly or indirectly received 12b-1 fees for investments selected for their clients without adequate disclosure, including disclosures that were inconsistent with the advisers’ actual practices.

The SEC’s orders found that the investment advisers failed to adequately disclose conflicts of interest related to the sale of higher-cost mutual fund share classes when a lower-cost share class was available. Specifically, the SEC’s orders found that the settling investment advisers placed their clients in mutual fund share classes that charged 12b-1 fees – which are recurring fees deducted from the fund’s assets – when lower-cost share classes of the same fund were available to their clients without adequately disclosing that the higher cost share class would be selected. According to the SEC’s orders, the 12b-1 fees were routinely paid to the investment advisers in their capacity as brokers, to their broker-dealer affiliates, or to their personnel who were also registered representatives, creating a conflict of interest with their clients, as the investment advisers stood to benefit from the clients’ paying higher fees.

For more information visit The Securities Lawyer Blog, or contact Mark Astarita at mja@sallahlaw.com

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