The New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation has charged two U.S. units of ING Groep N.V. with disclosing too little information about the company’s mutual fund sales practices.
The bureau has filed a cease-and-desist order against ING Life Insurance and Annuity Company, Des Moines, Iowa, and ING Financial Advisers L.L.C., Hartford, the companies that run the New Hampshire employee deferred compensation plan.
The New Hampshire securities bureau says the ING units failed to give adequate information to bureau investigators who were looking into charges that the units had allowed market timers to violate their mutual fund trading rules.
The securities bureau also was investigating allegations that the ING units had hidden financial relationships with mutual fund brokers.
ING put out a statement denying the charges.
“ING disputes the allegations made by New Hampshire bureau, and we intend to defend ourselves fully,” says Dana Ripley, an ING USA spokesman.
The New Hampshire bureau began an investigation in 2004, after ING admitted in a financial filing that it had been subject to market timing and late trading of funds it managed for the state.
Market timing is a practice in which an investor, such as a pension fund, frequently trades a security, intending to take advantage of pricing inefficiencies to maximize profits. Where a fund administrator allows the practice, it can increase costs and harm overall fund performance for other investors.
In late trading, a fund allows a few select investors to buy mutual fund shares after the close of securities markets, which is not allowable under securities laws.
In October 2005, the National Association of Securities Dealers ordered ING to stop allowing market timing activities.
The New Hampshire securities bureau also says it believes fund brokers paid ING to participate in an ING sales network. That revenue-sharing arrangement created a conflict of interest for brokers that sold funds to the state employee deferred compensation plan, the bureau says.