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Regulator Fines Broker-Dealer Affiliates

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The National Association of Securities Dealers Inc. has imposed $7 million in penalties on 4 related broker-dealers in connection with allegations of problems with compensation arrangements.

The NASD, Washington, has imposed the fines on Financial Network Investment Corp. Inc., El Segundo, Calif.; ING Financial Partners Inc., Des Moines, Iowa; Multi-Financial Securities Corp., Denver; and Prime Vest Financial Services Inc., St. Cloud, Minn.

All 4 companies are units of ING Groep N.V., Amsterdam.

The companies nave neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but they have consented to the entry of the NASD’s findings, according to the NASD.

The NASD says the companies gave preferred treatment from 2001 to 2003 to 10 mutual fund complexes that provided extra compensation to the broker-dealers, with 2 of the complexes paying the broker-dealers in ordinary cash and 8 paying a portion of their fees by directing about $25.7 million in mutual fund portfolio brokerage commissions to the 4-broker-dealers.

None of the 4 firms played a role in the execution of the trades that generated the commissions, according to NASD officials.

ING notes in a statement responding to the NASD announcement that the compensation programs in question ended in 2003.

“The 4 broker-dealers are the 32nd through 35th firms to settle with the NASD on this issue,” ING says in the statement. “These settlements bring to a close the NASD’s review of directed brokerage activities of ING’s retail broker-dealers. ING is pleased to have this matter resolved.”

ING believes the changing regulatory standards regarding directed brokerage have been good both for investors and for the financial services industry, ING says.