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SIA Says "Me Too" on Sales Fee Investigations

Securities firms have begun adding employees again, according to statistics from the Securities Industry Association and the Labor Dept.

Amid the brewing investigations into mutual fund sales practices, the Securities Industry Association came out last week in support of the new Joint NASD/Industry Task Force. "Our industry will work hard with the regulatory agencies to ensure that investors receive any appropriate sales-fee reductions," says SIA president Marc Lackritz in a statement. The task force, so far, has focused on "breakpoints," sales charge discounts that mutual fund companies provide investors who put in a certain amount in a selected fund. In January, the NASD sent word to several firms that it had discovered brokers are not providing earned discounts to mutual fund investors, thereby overcharging them. The NASD charges that various brokers at undisclosed firms were ignoring breakpoints and charging clients the customary loads. But the NASD is not the only regulatory body taking a hard look at mutual fund sales practices; The SEC also is in the act. In early July, it announced the settlement of an enforcement action against the former Prudential Securities, and it is in the midst of an investigation at Morgan Stanley. Both actions involve the firms’ use of Class B mutual fund shares, which carry large backend fees. Specifically, the regulators are interested in whether brokers sold B shares without informing investors that in certain instances other fund classes could lower the commissions and fees they pay.