December 28, 2006

Fidelity to Pay $42 Million to Mutual Funds

Chairman apologizes for "improper behavior"

More On Legal & Compliance

from The Advisor's Professional Library
  • Client Commission Practices and Soft Dollars RIAs should always evaluate whether the products and services they receive from broker-dealers are appropriate. The SEC suggested that an RIA’s failure to stay within the scope of the Section 28(e) safe harbor may violate the advisor’s fiduciary duty to clients, so RIAs must evaluate their soft dollar relationships on a regular basis to ensure they are disclosed properly and that they do not negatively impact the best execution of clients’ transactions.
  • Where Are We Headed? The ultimate compliance goal is to help ensure that everyone associated with an advisory firm acts ethically at all times.  Advisors and RIAs should do the right thing, even when regulators are not looking over their shoulders.

In response to the scandal over favors given to some Fidelity mutual fund equity traders and supervisors by certain broker/dealers from 2002 to 2004, Fidelity chairman Ned Johnson apologized to shareholders, customers, clients and employees, and said Dec. 21 that the company would pay $42 million plus interest to its mutual funds "for this misbehavior and the company's failure to stop it"--a penalty recommended by its independent trustees, which included as its head at the time the new Defense Secretary, Robert Gates.

The Trustees' report on the scandal found that "... inadequate supervision and other shortcomings exposed the Funds to the potential risks of adverse publicity, loss of credibility with their principal regulators, and loss of Fund shareholders."

Earlier this month, one of those brokerage firms implicated in the scandal--Jefferies Group--agreed to pay a fine of nearly $10 million to NASD and the SEC to settle charges that it illegally spent $2 million in entertainment and other gifts, like expensive golf trips and the use of private jets, on the Fidelity fund traders. Jefferies also agreed to hire an independent consultant to review its compliance procedures.

The Trustees' report is available at

http://personal.fidelity.com/global/content/independent-report.shtml.cvsr?refhp=pr&ut=A47; Johnson's open letter is at

http://personal.fidelity.com/global/content/edward-johnson-lt.shtml.cvsr?refhp=pr&ut=A48

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