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Regulators Eye Second 529 Plan Issuer

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The National Association of Securities Dealers may be preparing to take action against the 529 college savings plan program at MetLife Inc.[@@]

MetLife, New York, says in its latest Form 10-Q financial statement that the staff of the NASD already has sent a warning about the program to its MetLife Securities Inc. unit.

The NASD staff says “it has made a preliminary determination to recommend charging MSI with the failure to adopt, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to achieve compliance with suitability requirements regarding the sale of college savings plans,” MetLife says in the 10-Q.

The NASD staff also says it may charge the MetLife securities unit with “failure to enforce its written supervisory procedures with respect to disclosure obligations in the sale of 529 plans,” MetLife says.

Earlier this year, Ameriprise Financial Inc., Minneapolis, agreed to pay a fine and compensate customers to resolve an NASD investigation of its 529 plan program.

Consumers can cut their federal income taxes by investing in 529 plan programs sponsored by any state, but they may be able to cut their state income taxes by investing in 529 plan programs sponsored by their home states. The NASD argued in a discussion of the Ameriprise settlement agreement that Ameriprise had done a poor job of counseling customers about the potential tax advantages of using home-state 529 plan programs.

MetLife says it believes the notification that the NASD sent it followed on the heels of a broad NASD examination of 529 plan industry sales practices.

The MetLife securities unit “intends to respond to the NASD staff before the NASD staff makes a formal recommendation regarding whether any action alleging violations of applicable rules should be filed,” MetLife says.

The securities unit is cooperating with the NASD, MetLife says.