12b-1 fees under the SEC microscope

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Jul 19, 2007 4:15 pm

Interesting I see no comments on this 11 billion dollar hot button issue;


http://sec.gov/spotlight/rule12b-1/rule12bagenda-061907.htm


Today is the last comment day on this particular phase of the commissions work.


It's not going to be good; Roper, Zimmerman, Donahue, Done Phillip's not to forget Cox himself. They all hate "brokers" and will dominate the agenda.


 


 


Jul 19, 2007 4:37 pm
Farmboy:

Interesting I see no comments on this 11 billion dollar hot button issue;


http://sec.gov/spotlight/rule12b-1/rule12bagenda-061907.htm


Today is the last comment day on this particular phase of the commissions work.


It's not going to be good; Roper, Zimmerman, Donahue, Done Phillip's not to forget Cox himself. They all hate "brokers" and will dominate the agenda.


 


 




Well it makes sense.  I mean broker's should just work for free.  There is no sense in getting paid for what we do. 


Jul 19, 2007 4:48 pm

It seems strange to me that there is noone from EDJ on the list.   Jones is #1 in mutual fund distribution and not even a voice on the panel.  Sure, they've got the lady from Motley Fool, but nobody from Jones.

Jul 19, 2007 4:53 pm

Well some of us looked at what the firm was telling us and knew that it was better to know better.


When the firm told us to buy Jones Cable partnerships, we knew that after the first couple they were likely to suck. When the firm told us to buy Real Estate Limited Partnerships, we knew they were likely to be a bad idea. So when the firm told us to annuitize our books by earning that "evergreen, income stream" that were B share trails we knew it wouldn't last.


Now mutual funds are in the last throes of their insurgency. I welcome their demise! I welcome the opportunity to invest that money into individual stocks and bonds where I can do best by the client while still doing very well by me.

Jul 19, 2007 5:07 pm

It's way complicated by the way, many interests are involved aside from "trailing" commissions;


http://www.financialservices.org/content.aspx?page=490&s ection=3


Have done lots of work on the topic. It's sad how all advisors posture against one another from a selfish point of view. FOr example people who trade stocks here say "good" and hopes it might help their interests. Tomorrow they could say "$5 a trade" as a "cap" on stocks, I couldn't care less directly but I wouldn't take that position.



Jul 19, 2007 6:13 pm
Whomitmayconcer:

Well some of us looked at what the firm was telling us and knew that it was better to know better.


When the firm told us to buy Jones Cable partnerships, we knew that after the first couple they were likely to suck. When the firm told us to buy Real Estate Limited Partnerships, we knew they were likely to be a bad idea. So when the firm told us to annuitize our books by earning that "evergreen, income stream" that were B share trails we knew it wouldn't last.


Now mutual funds are in the last throes of their insurgency. I welcome their demise! I welcome the opportunity to invest that money into individual stocks and bonds where I can do best by the client while still doing very well by me.



Um...what?  Real Estate LPs, Jones Cable Partnerships?  What are you talking about.  What do those things have to do with the man in the moon with 12-b1 fees? 

Jul 19, 2007 6:46 pm

Spifferino,


What they have to do with 12b1 fees is that the trailing commission was seen as the way to let people be wealthy in this business without having to do the real work of investing the money.


"Give it to Jones" (Jones Intercable was a limited partnership that bought up cable companies, the first few of these partnerships returned tremendously. But then everybody got into the cable business and the easy money was gone, so if you were in one of the later deals, you were SOL at best!) "Give it to Balcor, let them run the investment." Both of these ideas eventally stopped working, firms stopped offering LPs to their clients.


Eventually the firms were pushing this great new idea, B shares with a 25 BP trail! "Get paid today and then get paid just for leaving the money there, and as the money grows... SO DOES YOUR PAYCHECK! Best of all, you client may never have to pay a sales fee, so you can compete with the 'No Loads'!"


It worked for a while. And now they are coming after the fees. Well, looks like a broker's going to have to work for his money again. And guess what! They're going to be going after fee based accounts next including fee based practices. Soon you'll be capped at 1% then 50 beeps and that business pradigm will die too.


If they cap stock trades at $5.... I'll trade the London Exchange where they have no such cap. Somebody will eliminate the rule in order to get the trading volume.

Jul 20, 2007 7:14 am

[/quote]

Well it makes sense.  I mean broker's should just work for
free.  There is no sense in getting paid for what we do. 


[/quote]



No, that is not what the point of the discussion is-  Clients
should just always know what they are paying, that's all.  If you
are worth your 12B-1 fee you should discuss it, show it, and charge it
in a transparent way so the client can make on-going decisions on
whether your service is worth the fee being charged.  As a
consumer you would want this...it makes sense. 



As we take on new clients and discuss fee's (we are 100% fee based), I
am amazed when I ask how much their advisor is charging them and they
say "nothing".  Then I ask who is paying them for their
work?  And the response is one of two things:  1. "Smith
Barney (or whoever) pays them."  or 2. "The mutual fund and
insurance companies pay them, not us"



Its wrong and needs to be changed.
Jul 20, 2007 12:52 pm

Whomit - While I'm not sure I agree that LPs are quite in the same line of thinking as 12b-1 fees, I do agree that there have been things FAs have done to make money for themselves and their clients that haven't worked out the best.  Talk to anyone who bought the Seligman Communications fund back in 98 and they thought their FA was a genius.  By 2000 they hated him. 


I agree with rightway.  This discussion isn't about HOW the trading is done, but rather that fees are fully disclosed and better explained.  Nobody outside the industry really understands what a 12b-1 fee was originally intended to do for the fund industry.  And B shares are abused by too many FAs in the industry.  I like the way Franklin Templeton does it.  A or C.  No middle ground.   


I take a little offense at the comment about getting wealthy without having to do the real work of investing.  Just because you might be using individual stocks or bonds to build a portfolio doesn't mean that you are actually investing the money and I'm not because I use mutual funds or etfs.  That's just crap.

Jul 20, 2007 3:10 pm
rightway:



As we take on new clients and discuss fee's (we are 100% fee based), I
am amazed when I ask how much their advisor is charging them and they
say "nothing".  Then I ask who is paying them for their
work?  And the response is one of two things:  1. "Smith
Barney (or whoever) pays them."  or 2. "The mutual fund and
insurance companies pay them, not us"



Its wrong and needs to be changed.





You just keep leading them down that path.



"Where does smith barney get the money?"



"How do the mutual fund/insurance companies get the money?"



Eventually the scales are lifted and you've made the sale, or at least ruined the incumbent relationship.

Jul 20, 2007 3:34 pm

Eventually the scales are lifted and you've made the sale, or at least ruined the incumbent relationship...


Eventually the scales are lifted and you've made the sale, or at least ruined the incumbent relationship.


Well, at least you are honest here about being a moral schmuck in a sheep suit. Let this naked and brazen self serving statement assure every good advisor that there are more important practice development issues than the selling lie of the hour.


How much do you charge, one percent, or do you hose them for one point five? Shame on you.

Jul 20, 2007 3:46 pm
rightway:

Well it makes sense.  I mean broker's should just work for free.  There is no sense in getting paid for what we do. 



[/quote]

No, that is not what the point of the discussion is-  Clients should just always know what they are paying, that's all.  If you are worth your 12B-1 fee you should discuss it, show it, and charge it in a transparent way so the client can make on-going decisions on whether your service is worth the fee being charged.  As a consumer you would want this...it makes sense. 

As we take on new clients and discuss fee's (we are 100% fee based), I am amazed when I ask how much their advisor is charging them and they say "nothing".  Then I ask who is paying them for their work?  And the response is one of two things:  1. "Smith Barney (or whoever) pays them."  or 2. "The mutual fund and insurance companies pay them, not us"

Its wrong and needs to be changed.
[/quote]


Rightway, I agree with you that client's should know how we get paid - by them.  I tell them straight up how I am paid.  But I realize not everyone does it the "Rightway".  I just think an extra piece of disclosure paper is enough.  I personally would rather build a book of C shares than fee based for the same %.  Of course, if I'm charging 1.5% on the wrap, well that sounds a little better.  Eventually the regulators will come down on those too though. 


Do you disclose the fees and expenses on the institutional share in addition to the asset based fee?

Jul 20, 2007 4:00 pm

"I take a little offense at the comment about getting wealthy without having to do the real work of investing.  Just because you might be using individual stocks or bonds to build a portfolio doesn't mean that you are actually investing the money and I'm not because I use mutual funds or etfs.  That's just crap. "


Well, to be honest, I did mean it to be offensive, but not on any personal level.


I only make money when I'm doing some work for the client. I don't get paid during the in between times. I have a vested interest in finding ideas that will make money for my clients quickly enough for me to get paid for having made the investment or divestment as the case may be. That's the hard work of this business. My client isn't paying me so that I can go out and look for other clients, he's only paying me for the job that I do for him.


When an advisor is making money off of fees, he has two choices if he wants to make more money, sit around and try to make the assets climb or make the asset base climb by prospecting for more business. Since that advisor has farmed out the job of making the asset go up to outside advisors (who, BTW are ALSO more interested in having the asset base go up by the acquisition of new clients than by market action, except in that market action CAN have an impact, and then you have a money manager looking to hit one out of the park) there isn't a whole lot they can do, so the client who is paying fees is paying for the advisor to get up and go out to find other clients (which is against the client's best interests in that he'd rather have the additional attention that the advisors is lavishing elsewhere.)


I don't think you get the connection to the LPs and the 12b1s,. It's not what brokers will do to satiate their own greed, it's what brokers will do in order to follow the advice of the brokerage firm. The Brokerage firm may have the best intentions in the world, it's just that they are so damned wrong so damned often! All of them, it's pathetic, their track records "Buy this long term bond fund that we manage with a call writing strategy!" (they were called "Government Plus" funds until it turned out that they were Government Minus funds that, to this very day 20 years later are still under water, or would be except that they all got folded into other funds so that they couldn't drag down the fund families overall performance numbers anymore.) I am not at all surprised that this day is coming, because it is just like all the other days when what the firm said was a good idea is turning out to be an empty pot at the end of the rainbow.


You guys do a great job collecting assets and if your clients are happy then I'm happy. I feel sorry for you that they are likely to change the trails rules (at which time a mutual fund company will just start to print the fees deductions on their statements and tell you that the trail just went down to 10 beeps) and screw you out of your livelyhood.


Fortunately, for you, you have the assets and you'll be able to work them. Unfortunately for you, because you followed the firm, you don't know how to work them, and that's an expensive tuition to learn how to do what guys like me do. You may think you can run to RIA accounts, but they're the same stalk of celery getting sliced and diced by some cook.

Jul 24, 2007 5:42 pm

It's a sorry site to see so much intra-advisor finger pointing and assumptions that there is a world of guilt associated to 12-b1.


Of course the fee should be disclosed and perhaps more directly worded but the real issue is wage and price controls and the likes of Morningstar and Barbara Roper as well as Cox himself who have your correct market price in their heads. It's called socialism.


As for advisors mindlessly fighting that their "fee account" is better than 12-b1 I have some news for you, someday soon they will be "negotiating" collectively for the "public good" their own fee schedules for the 1940 act. You would think all advisors would support market choices instead of one size fits all market price fixing. Instead Cox is whining for "fund directors" with the goal of reducing competition and regulating costs. All this helps the cheapo no service channels as well as hurting traditional commission production.


Fee wrap accounts for the masses then they will price fix all advisory fees from the aftermath that follows.


Some of you should have seen both your and the small investors interest here and put a comment in at the SEC speaking for essentially preserving the rule instead of nitpicking some of the dated aspects like you are all Elliot Spitzer wannabes. 




Jul 24, 2007 9:36 pm

[/quote]


Rightway, I agree with you that client's should know how we get paid
- by them.  I tell them straight up how I am paid.  But I
realize not everyone does it the "Rightway".  I just think an
extra piece of disclosure paper is enough.  I personally would
rather build a book of C shares than fee based for the same %.  Of
course, if I'm charging 1.5% on the wrap, well that sounds a little
better.  Eventually the regulators will come down on those too
though. 


Do you disclose the fees and expenses on the institutional share in addition to the asset based fee?

[/quote]

Jul 24, 2007 9:47 pm

[/quote]

Rightway, I agree with you that client's should know how we get paid
- by them.  I tell them straight up how I am paid.  But I
realize not everyone does it the "Rightway".  I just think an
extra piece of disclosure paper is enough.  I personally would
rather build a book of C shares than fee based for the same %.  Of
course, if I'm charging 1.5% on the wrap, well that sounds a little
better.  Eventually the regulators will come down on those too
though. 


Do you disclose the fees and expenses on the institutional share in addition to the asset based fee?

[/quote]



mmmmm The point is not the disection of the fee's (I don't charge a
wrap fee on mutual funds).  It is disclosure, and it is building
and maintaining a business. 



Every good advisor can build a great practice of moderate sized acounts
with C shares and serve there clients very very well...despite the
fee's...whatever they are...I know that.  Unfortunately that is
not the world we live in anymore! We live in a world of the SEC and
intense scrutiny...so why swim up stream? 



I have taken my position on the subject (of C Shares) for years based
on the business model that can be sustained (given the regulatory
situation), not on the merits of the products. 



Joe gave a sample of an article in a magazine about some accounting
changes going on with some major compainies that was very very
important and he did not have to do that (Thanks again Joe). 
While my points may not be as sexy, they are important for new people
(100 mil or less in AUM) that are building a business.  Listen or
not...it's up to you.




Jul 25, 2007 3:44 pm

Aside from appropriate disclosure to clients, the whole 12b1 "argument" is a self-serving profession akin to Congress haggling about the tax code, and lobbyists fighting against a flat tax.


Anyway, the takedown for the "average" advisor is: nobody cares except for you, so keep your focus on delivering outstanding financial planning advice and service, don't eat yourself up bs that "don't" matter.


Except, we should hold accountable the little twits that are trying to cash in on our labor - I'm talking about the guys who charge one and one half in "service fees", or "advisory fees", and try to destroy us.


Frankly, it would be a pain in the keester to move out of trails, it could be done and will if required, but this is a manufactured and self serving proposition, since the real solution to any fair delivery of services or product is disclosure.


Screw the namby pamby. Newby, I'm talking to you, focus on what matters - having lots of contact with lots of folks who need your help.

Jul 25, 2007 3:54 pm

Every good advisor can build a great practice of moderate sized acounts with C shares and serve there clients very very well...despite the fee's...whatever they are...I know that.  Unfortunately that is not the world we live in anymore! We live in a world of the SEC and intense scrutiny...so why swim up stream? 


The SEC is a regulatory body, it is also just another special interest group, from an economic point of view.


No question RIAs are going to be cracked upon like nobody here imagines - stick around, you ain't seen nothing yet.


And guess who is going to pay for it - all of us.


There is absolutely no reason to roll over and die - especially "mentally", as a broker dealer affiliate.


Rather, time to street fight - here, in Washington DC, on your own radio show, everywhere. I don't hear anyone on those RIA marketing radio shows mention the fact that they charge 1.5% fees, plus around .8% average on no load funds. Compare that cost to total cost of the average Registered Representative.


Enough said. Time to kick some a.

Jul 26, 2007 5:12 pm

coolshoos-


People seem to miss point on this thread. All the in fighting between traditional and RIA pricing models is foolish. The enemy here is top-down one-size-fits-all government price fixing dressed up as "looking after the customer" or "regulation". Markets and customers should decide what they pay or don't pay. Yes to better wording and disclosure but there is nothing wrong with shifting fees through 12-b1 while reducing upfront costs of fund trades. Cox is basically wrong from the start and the broker points here are indeed mostly lame. As for the self interested RIA whining that their fee is better than a commission I hope they understand without that commission to compete against they would be dead. It's just like the Bogle hypocrisy on the point, whining about 12-b1 helped make Vanguard. Now they just want to cash in on stranded little accounts that will no longer be easily priced in advisory channels at all without 12-b1.


It also shocking that all of the regulatory failures in the excess of the 90's (account fraud, ceo corruption to name two) it becomes the fix of the moment to bash retail investment advisory as if the two events are related. It's exactly this small agenda of Leavitt (for example) that comes to mind as Rome was burning all around him he was all worried about continuing ed classes for brokers while completly asleep at the wheel while Cendant, Sun Beam and of course Enron and Worldcom were all going off near his watch.



Jul 26, 2007 5:51 pm

Fb, spot on.


Markets and customers should decide what they pay or don't pay.


An economic approach to an economic problem.


Markets and customers should decide what they pay or don't pay. Yes to better wording and disclosure but there is nothing wrong with shifting fees through 12-b1 while reducing upfront costs of fund trades.


In fact, complexity can help combat corruption. Diversity nourishes competition. I think that's why we have diversity and choice now ... hmm, let's regulate it and apply our Socialist wisdom to manage diversity ... not.


Cox is basically wrong from the start and the broker points here are indeed mostly lame.


Thank you. You have elevated this conversation to the point where we can view each other as colleagues, again.


As for the self interested RIA whining that their fee is better than a commission I hope they understand without that commission to compete against they would be dead.


As someone pointed out, they will be dead, or at least injured, for a lot of reasons. For one, lack of regulation and then overregulation. And when they compete only on simplicity of platform, their fees will be regulated into oblivion, in the environmental sense of extinction of species or unsustainable agriculture - all of the focus being on costs, service and sustained, customized approach to financial planning, wealth creation and asset management will suffer.


It's just like the Bogle hypocrisy on the point, whining about 12-b1 helped make Vanguard.


Hypocracy is the precise term. Let us gleefully attack those hypocritical opportunists who attack us as registered representatives, especially on the RR site.


Now they just want to cash in on stranded little accounts that will no longer be easily priced in advisory channels at all without 12-b1.


I think it's called profit maximization. This stuff should be discussed in the media - on radio, television, in the movies. The little guy always gets stiffed - sometimes by " liberals " who think they are doing the " moral " thing (being " fee only ").  That brings us back to free market economics, free choice versus:


It's exactly this small agenda of Leavitt (for example) that comes to mind as Rome was burning all around him he was all worried about continuing ed classes for brokers while completly asleep at the wheel while Cendant, Sun Beam and of course Enron and Worldcom were all going off near his watch.


Fricking brilliant analysis and synthesis, Farmboy.