Back in August, Standard & Poor’s released data that indicated that quite a number of mutual funds were still charging 12b-1 fees–those designated for marketing expenses–even though they weren’t recruiting any new investors. While nobody paid much attention during boom market days to such fees, once the bottom fell out, everything was fair game for scrutiny.
Those 12b-1 fees have finally been noticed by, among others, the SEC, which is not only examining how they are allocated, but also questioning whether those fees might be a violation of fiduciary duties by being excessive. And, as one might expect in our litigious society, the obligatory lawsuits have been filed on behalf of investors against some of those funds.
According to S&P, out of its database universe of more than 15,000 domestic mutual funds, 605 funds were shown as being closed to new investors as of December 8, 2003. Out of those 605, 153 were still charging 12b-1 fees averaging 0.64%, and 94 of them were charging the maximum rate allowed by the SEC of 1% of the fund’s net annual assets.