New Series Explains How Excessive, Hidden Mutual Fund Fees Hurt Shareholders

An original series of articles on how mutual fund shareholders are being hurt by excessive fund fees, while creating conflicts of interests with their investment advisers, has been posted on the new Web site, mutualfundreform.com.

The 7,000-word, 11-part series of articles, “The Deception Series,” was written by the Web site’s creator, Chuck Epstein, an award-winning financial writer who has written bylined articles in over 50 financial publications.

The articles focus on the role of 12b-1 fees, and revenue sharing agreements, including an advisor paid fee, which affect shareholders and often create conflicts of interest between advisers and their clients. This series is especially timely since the SEC is now evaluating the role of the $12 billion in 12b-1 fees being extracted from the nation’s mutual fund shareholders accounts annually.

The series stems from the writer’s work as a senior writer for two major mutual fund firms over the past seven years. During that time, he became concerned that the interests of fund shareholders, specifically in load-mutual fund companies, had become subservient to those of fund company wholesalers, investment advisers, and fund company executives.

As a result, shareholders in one fund were being subjected to advisor paid fees, a genre of revenue sharing agreements, as well as 12b-1 fees which the writer contends were not adequately disclosed. Acting in concert, these fees raised fund expense levels which directly impacted shareholder net investment returns. In addition to reducing net portfolio returns, these fees create ethical problems between financial advisers and their clients.

This combination of hidden fees were so lucrative that in some cases, investment advisers made more in specialized revenue sharing schemes than shareholders did during the same time frame from their mutual fund’s total return.

In almost all cases, the series found that advisor paid fees, 12b-1, and revenue sharing compromised the ethics of financial advisers. In the case of the Principal SAM Portfolios, (earlier known as the WM Group of Funds SAM Portfolios), an advisor-paid-fee type of revenue sharing scheme involved over 100,000 shareholders over the last decade.

This revenue sharing arrangement was not fully explained to shareholders who generated millions of dollars in revenue sharing income for investment advisers and their broker/dealers. The only people who did not share in that revenue sharing scheme were the individual shareholders themselves, who were victimized through a conflict of interest with their investment advisers that was created by the fund company distributor.

The sole purpose of the advisor-paid-fee, which began in 1999 and continues to be paid to advisers today, was to attract new fund flows and reduce fund redemptions. This was done by enticing advisers with projections of increasing their total fee income, in some cases, by 300%. In the process, this fee created a conflict-of-interest between advisers and their clients which did not exist before.

In Part 10, the series takes the unusual step of suggesting that current and former SAM shareholders ask their financial advisers for a percentage of the advisor-paid-fee to be returned to them. The rationale is that since shareholders were the prime engine for generating this fee, they also have the right to receive all, or a portion, of it in return. Depending on how long the shareholder held the SAM Portfolio investment, these fees could range in the thousands of dollars.

A Timely Series
This series is especially timely for two reasons: The SEC is considering the role of 12b-1 fees later this year. Second, reshaping the mutual fund industry by changing 12b-1 fees and other fee-for-sales schemes will force the mutual fund industry to become more competitive, more innovative, more transparent, and less commoditized.

All this is necessary if the mutual fund industry wants to remain committed to helping shareholders reach their financial goals, as opposed to helping mutual fund salespeople, investment advisers, and fund company executives reach their more lucrative financial goals first. In short, it’s time load mutual fund companies put the interests of their shareholders first.

Here are the individual sections in the 11-part series:

Part 1–How Hidden Mutual Fund Payments Hurt Shareholders
Part 2–The History of the APF
Part 3–First-Hand Experience
Part 4–The Culture of Deception
Part 5–The Threat of Mass Redemptions
Part 6–The Ethics of Disclosure
Part 7–The Role of the Mutual Fund Company Board of Directors
Part 8–The Issue of Disclosure: Seeing is Believing
Part 9–What the Advisor Paid Fee Means to the SEC
Part 10–What SAM Portfolio Shareholders Can Do to Recapture a Portion of their APF?
Part 11–The Deception Series –Summary

“The Deception Series” can be seen at the Web site, www.mutualfundreform.com.
Source: The Open Press
Professional Free Press Release News Wire

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