A top official at the National Association of Securities Dealers says his group wants to take a closer look at sales of annuities.[@@]

NASD Chairman Robert Glauber talked about NASD annuity sales rules Friday in New York at a conference organized by the Securities Industry Association, New York.

Glauber talked about the need to create a level playing field for the mutual fund companies by ensuring that sales of other, competing products are subject to similar sales and disclosure rules.

“Harmonization of rules governing the sales of similar products is a matter of fundamental fairness,” Glauber said at the SIA conference, according to a written version of his remarks. “Investors have a right to expect a level playing field when they’re examining and comparing products that are close substitutes for each other.”

Glauber said the NASD needs to start looking at fixed annuities, variable annuities and equity-indexed annuities, exchange-traded funds and some other products, such as separately managed accounts, to ensure that investors are as well-protected from abuses when they buy those products as they are when they buy mutual funds.

The NASD already has proposed a rule establishing specific suitability and supervision requirements for variable annuities, Glauber said.

The NASD also has encouraged sales representatives registered with the NASD to treat equity-indexed annuities as if they are securities, even though it is not clear whether EIAs are always securities, Glauber said.

Glauber also talked about the need to apply tighter sales standards to sales of Section 529 college savings plans.

One challenge is that Congress designated 529 plan accounts as municipal securities not as mutual funds, Glauber said.

Because 529 plan investment options look so much like mutual funds, “investors have every reason to expect that the sales practice rules for 529s will be comparable to those that NASD created to protect investors when they buy mutual funds,” Glauber said.

The NASD is in charge of regulating 529 plans, and Glauber said the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board should declare that all future NASD mutual fund sales practices rules will apply to 529 plan investment options.

Glauber also talked about the fact that no 2 state 529 plan programs report costs and benefits the same way.

State financial officials and 529 program administrators already are working to set voluntary disclosure standards, Glauber said.

A copy of Glauber’s speech is on the Web at http://www.nasd.com/web/idcplg?IdcService=SS_GET_PAGE&ssDocName=NASDW_015054&ssSourceNodeId=5