Do You Understand the Fees Charged by Your Mutual Funds? Probably Not.

In a July 31, 2009 article, Sam Mamundi of Marketwatch.com discussed the hidden sales fees charged by mutual funds. As noted in the article, “[t]he majority of retail funds are sold through brokerages, and each brokerage firm levies a range of charges to the fund for every sale. The cost of these agreements is passed on to investors.” These charges come in a variety of forms, including “revenue sharing agreements” and 12b-1 fees.

Many broker-dealers have revenue sharing agreements with mutual fund companies. Under these agreements, the broker-dealers are paid a percentage of the mutual fund sales they generate by the mutual fund companies. Each firm negotiates its own rates of revenue sharing with each mutual fund company.

Over the past few years, there have been lawsuits involving revenue sharing agreements. These cases were brought against broker-dealers and were largely based upon the premise that these undisclosed fees created a conflict of interest because the firms’ brokers (and also the broker-dealers) had a financial incentive to push the funds managed by the companies with whom the broker-dealer had an agreement, and not based upon their clients’ best interests.

Although mutual fund companies specifically report the amount of 12b-1 fees they charge against shareholders in their annual and semi-annual reports, the amount of money charged to shareholders for these revenue sharing agreements are not specifically disclosed. In fact, as noted in the Marketwatch.com article:

“There’s no direct rule requiring funds or brokerage firms to disclose revenue-sharing deals. Funds simply have to state that they pay for these deals, and often that’s tucked away at the back of a prospectus — which many investors don’t read before they buy into a fund.”

The Securities and Exchange Commission is also reportedly looking into the issue of hidden mutual fund sales fees. In her testimony before the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on June 2, 2009, SEC Chairperson Mary Schapiro stated:

I also have asked the staff to prepare a recommendation on rule 12b-1, which permits mutual funds to use fund assets to compensate broker-dealers and other intermediaries for distribution and servicing expenses. These fees, with their bureaucratic sounding name and sometimes unclear purpose, are not well understood by investors. Yet in 2008, rule 12b-1 was used to collect over $13 billion in investors’ funds out of fund assets. It is essential, therefore, that the SEC engage in a comprehensive re-examination of rule 12b-1 and the fees collected pursuant to the rule. If issues relating to these fees undermine investor interests, then we at the SEC have an obligation to step in and adjust our regulations.

President Obama is also focusing on this issue. In a June White Paper (will open in Adobe Acrobat), the President noted that for the country “[t]o rebuild trust in our markets, we need strong and consistent regulation and supervision of consumer financial services and investment markets.” To that end, President Obama recommended “[s]tronger regulations to improve the transparency, fairness, and appropriateness of consumer and investor products and services.” In order to accomplish this goal, the President has set out to increase the power of the SEC so that the agency is better equipped to protect consumers and investors. Whether this will be enough is yet to be determined.

Undisclosed fees and revenue sharing agreements are another example of conflicts of interest between Wall Street firms and Main Street investors. Unfortunately, stockbrokers and financial advisors often lose sight of their clients’ goals and, as a result, their clients suffer unnecessary losses in the value of their IRAs, 401(k)s, college savings plans, or other investments accounts. The Kueser Law Firm represents investors who have suffered losses in their investments as the result of stockbroker or financial adviser misconduct. If you are concerned that your investments have been mismanaged, contact us to learn more about your rights.

Technorati : , ,
Del.icio.us : , ,
Zooomr : , ,

Share

Fidelity Cautions Investors on Leveraged ETFs?

On August 4, 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that Fidelity Investments had joined other broker-dealers in warning its customers about the risks of investing in Leveraged ETFs (see other blawg posts on this topic here and here). The article, written by Daisy Maxey, states that Fidelity’s website warned investors that “Leveraged products are complex, carry substantial risks and are intended for short-term trading,” and that “[m]ost reset daily and seek to achieve their objectives on a daily basis. Due to compounding, performance over longer periods can differ significantly from the performance of the underlying index.”

The author of this blog spent several minutes searching Fidelity’s website (including searching the site for “leveraged ETF” and “leveraged product”) and could not find this warning. The website did contain an article from The Motley Fool entitled “Leveraged ETFs: Buyer Beware!” This brief article contained some discussion and examples of how leveraged ETFs work.

Last month, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) declared that leveraged ETFs are typically unsuitable for retail investors. In addition, Massachusetts securities regulators have issued subpoenas to four firms in order to obtain information related to their sales practices involving leveraged ETFs.

Leveraged ETFs are unsuitable for retail investors because of their level of risk. The financial website Investopedia.com defines a leveraged ETF as “an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that utilizes financial derivatives and debt to amplify the returns of an underlying index.” The fund essentially borrows money and combines this money with investors’ money to purchase derivatives such as options, futures, or swaps. Because of the use of debt and derivatives, these ETFs carry a significant amount of risk. These funds also generally charge higher expenses to shareholders, which results in reduced returns (or increased losses if the market goes against the investment objective of the fund).

The most popular of these investments are managed by Rydex, Direxion, and ProShares. If your stockbroker or financial advisor has sold you any leveraged ETFs, or purchased any leveraged ETFs in your accounts, and you have lost money on these investments, you may be entitled to recover these losses. The Kueser Law Firm represents investors in securities arbitration. If you are concerned that your investments have been mismanaged, contact us to learn more about your rights.

Share

More Broker Dealers Restrict Sales of Leveraged ETFs

Weeks after Edward D. Jones, Ameriprise, Linsco Private Ledger (LPL) and UBS announced that they were restricting the sale of leveraged ETFs (see here), two more broker-dealers have decided to take action related to their sales of these risky, and often misunderstood investments.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney announced that it is reviewing its sales procedures related to leveraged ETFs. In addition, Charles Schwab issued an “unusual” warning to its clients that have purchased leveraged ETFs. This warning provides investors with some background discussion related to these risky investments, as well as examples of how hypothetical leveraged ETFs would perform in a few hypothetical situations.

Although many broker-dealers have instituted these measures, some broker-dealers continue to do nothing. For example, as reported in the Wall Street Journal article, Fidelity Investments continues to make leveraged ETFs available to their customers and leveraged ETFs remain available through TD Ameritrade’s web trading platform.

As previously stated in this blawg, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has declared that leveraged ETFs are typically unsuitable for retail investors. In addition, Massachusetts securities regulators have issued subpoenas to four firms in order to obtain information related to their sales practices involving leveraged ETFs.

Leveraged ETFs are unsuitable for retail investors because of their level of risk. The financial website Investopedia.com defines a leveraged ETF as “an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that utilizes financial derivatives and debt to amplify the returns of an underlying index.” The fund essentially borrows money and combines this money with investors’ money to purchase derivatives such as options, futures, or swaps. Because of the use of debt and derivatives, these ETFs carry a significant amount of risk. These funds also generally charge higher expenses to shareholders, which results in reduced returns (or increased losses if the market goes against the investment objective of the fund).

The most popular of these investments are managed by Rydex, Direxion, and ProShares. If your stockbroker or financial advisor has sold you any leveraged ETFs, or purchased any leveraged ETFs in your accounts, and you have lost money on these investments, you may be entitled to recover these losses. The Kueser Law Firm represents investors in securities arbitration. If you are concerned that your investments have been mismanaged, contact us to learn more about your rights.

Share

Considering Hiring a New Investment Adviser?

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that while the four major Wall Street brokerage firms experienced an outflow of $8 billion of assets in 2008, Registered Investment Advisers brought in more than $108 billion in new assets during the same period. This activity likely reflects a shift in investor preference from transaction-based broker relationships to fiduciary relationships.

Investors generally choose to have their financial affairs handled by someone they feel they can trust. Given the financial meltdown that has taken place over the last 2+ years, it is easy to see why investors would prefer to have a fiduciary manage their investments rather than a brokerage firm that has unavoidable conflicts of interest with their clients.

If you are considering hiring an investment adviser, another Wall Street Journal article also set out some questions that investors should ask financial advisers. Every adviser-client relationship is based upon different goals, and, as a result, each investor should ask different questions when interviewing a financial adviser. However, if you are looking for a list of standard questions, this is a good place to start.

It is important to know as much as you can about your financial adviser, stockbroker, etc. You can also find information about stockbrokers by checking FINRA’s BrokerCheck website and research registered investment advisers through the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) website.

The Kueser Law Firm represents investors in securities arbitration and litigation. If you are concerned that your investments have been mismanaged, please contact us to learn more about your rights.

Share

SEC Charges Morgan Keegan for Fraudulent Marketing and Sales of Auction Rate Securities

On July 21, 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Morgan Keegan & Company. In its Complaint, the SEC seeks an injunction for violation of the federal securities laws, as well as equitable relief for Morgan Keegan investors. Included in this equitable relief is a request for a court order requiring Morgan Keegan to repurchase illiquid ARS from its customers. More about the SEC’s case, including a link to the Commission’s Litigation Release and Complaint can be found here.

The SEC’s Complaint alleges that Morgan Keegan misled thousands of investors about the liquidity risks related to auction rate securities (ARS). This is another example of the massive fraud related to Auction Rate Securities that was perpetrated by financial services firms across the country. To date, several firms, including UBS, Wachovia, TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, and Stifel Nicolaus have entered into settlements with federal and/or state securities regulators. Some of these settlements have broader relief for investors, while others have left many investors still holding onto these illiquid investments.

If you were sold Auction Rate Securities and your positions have not been redeemed or repurchased, you should contact an attorney to discuss your rights. The Kueser Law Firm represents investors in securities arbitration and litigation. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or would like additional information.

Share

Another day, more advisers alleged of fraud

On June 11, 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed two fraud actions against different financial/investment advisers.

Morgan European Holdings ApS, et al.

On June 11, the SEC obtained an emergency court order and asset freeze to shut down a fraudulent prime bank scheme. The action was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Flordia against Morgan European Holdings ApS, a/k/a Money Talks, Inc. ApS, John Morgan, Marian Morgan, Bowman Marketing Group, Inc., Stephen E. Bowman, and Thomas D. Woodcock, Jr.

According to the Litigation Release, the SEC has alleged that the Defendants solicited investments in fictitious prime bank trading programs. As noted in the Release,

the Complaint alleges that, during 2006 and 2007, the defendants raised millions of dollars from investors to participate in a fictitious investment program involving the trading of financial instruments among top financial institutions. The defendants told investors that their principal was guaranteed or never placed at risk. However, according to the Complaint, the defendants used investor funds for various undisclosed purposes, including Bowman’s gambling expenses, mortgage payments by the Morgans, and Ponzi payments to some investors. The SEC claims that John Morgan, Marian Morgan, and Stephen Bowman have continued to lull investors into remaining complacent by promising the imminent payment of their principal and returns. None of the relevant offerings was registered with the Commission, nor were any of the defendants registered as a broker-dealer or associated with a registered broker-dealer.

The SEC claims that the Defendants’ actions violated Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder. In addition the individual defendants were charged with violation of Section 15(a) of the 1934 Act. A hearing on the preliminary injunction is scheduled for June 25.

Aura Financial Services, Inc.

The SEC also charged an Alabama Broker-Dealer, Aura Financial Services, Inc., with engaging in fraudulent sales practices and high pressure sales tactics to convince customers to open an account and invest money with the firm. The SEC alleges that the firm and six of its representatives unfairly enriched themselves by more than $1 million in commissions and fees. At the same time, the customers’ accounts were largely depleted “through trading losses and excessive transaction costs.”

More information about this matter can be found by reading the SEC’s Litigation Release.

Share

Considering Investing in Mutual Funds?

The New York Times published an informative article by Tara Siegel Bernard on December 16, 2008 that discusses a lot of the basics of mutual funds.

This is a great article for anyone who is unfamiliar with mutual funds, but who has or is considering incorporating mutual funds into their investment portfolio.

Too often, investors are misled as to key features of the investments they are sold. Having a fundamental understanding of how different investments work serves two important benefits: (1) it allows an investor to better understand and communicate with their stockbroker or financial advisor; and (2) it provides the investor with a better means by which to interpret their periodic statements and other documentation so they can monitor their accounts.

The Kueser Law Firm represents investors that have been the victims of securities fraud, investment fraud, as well as other forms of stockbroker and financial adviser misconduct. In addition, the firm represents consumers that have been defrauded. If you would like to contact the firm for a free consultation, please call 816.374.5865 or visit our website, www.jmkesquire.com, for more information.

Share

Where to Turn for Financial Advice?

It seems that each day there is another story about allegations that an investment adviser has stolen money from their clients. Yesterday, the SEC filed a complaint alleging that a New York investment adviser had bilked his clients, many of whom were terminally ill or mentally impaired, out of $6 million.

Where do you turn? The New York Times published an interesting article on June 5, 2009, discussing this issue. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has a publicly available repository of information related to securities professionals (BrokerCheck) and the SEC maintains the IAPD, which is a database containing information related to investment advisers. While these are valuable sources in checking the background of investment professionals, they are often inadequate. The New York Times also published an article about financial planners in their “need to know” series that is worth reading.

Unfortunately, investors do not learn that their adviser has taken advantage of them until after they have suffered devastating financial losses. The Kueser Law Firm represents investors that have been the victims of securities fraud, investment fraud, as well as other forms of stockbroker and financial adviser misconduct. In addition, the firm represents consumers that have been defrauded. If you would like to contact the firm for a free consultation, please call 816.374.5865 or visit our website, www.jmkesquire.com, for more information.

Share
Page 2 of 2«12

Maintained by The Kueser Law Firm

The Kueser Law Firm | Securities Arbitration Attorney | Securities Arbitration Lawyer | Missouri Securities Arbitration Lawyer | Kansas Securities Arbitration Attorney

Social Media – Follow The Kueser Law Firm

DISCLAIMER

The choice of an attorney is an important one and should not be based solely upon advertisements such as this website. Past results afford no guarantee of future results. Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

*Any information submitted via this website may not be secure and/or confidential. Merely contacting this firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Contact The Kueser Law Firm

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 612
Lee's Summit, Missouri 64063
Phone: 816.374.5865
E-mail: Click Here
CONTACT FORM
Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Phone Number (optional)

Subject

Your Message:

To eliminate spam, please type the following code in the line below and press the Send button:
captcha

RSS News – Securities Fraud

RSS SEC – Press Releases