Justice Brandeis once famously said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Perhaps, but in FINRA’s purview, settlements might be better. Along these lines, FINRA recently announced that it has reached final settlements in its nearly four-year initiative to obtain restitution from member firms that allegedly failed to waive mutual fund sales charges. These firms also allegedly failed to properly supervise the sale of mutual funds that offer sales charge waivers. The settlements were substantial: 56 member firms agreed to pay $89 million in restitution for 110,000 charitable and retirement accounts.
Last week, the SEC announced a “Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative” being led by the Asset Management Unit of the Division of Enforcement. This initiative warrants close examination for investment advisers who regularly recommend different mutual fund share classes for their clients and by their affiliated broker-dealers. This effort continues the SEC’s focus on 12b-1 fees, and provides the SEC with a vehicle to efficiently bring enforcement actions against those firms who have failed to properly disclose conflicts related to those fees. FINRA has not yet issued any related, formal pronouncements. Until FINRA issues guidance, affiliated broker-dealers concerned with how to handle any 12b-1 fee issues that they may have will need to consider FINRA’s “extraordinary cooperation” guidance. Continue reading “SEC Announces Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative”