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SEC Announces Shelf Space Settlement

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Federal regulators have imposed $55 million in penalties on mutual fund and variable annuity units of a large financial services company.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has negotiated the settlement to resolve allegations that 3 units of Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford, used fund and VA assets to pay 61 broker-dealers for “shelf space” from 2000 to 2003 without telling the funds’ shareholders or the funds’ boards that fund assets would be used to pay marketing and distribution costs.

Hartford Financial is not admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, but the 3 company units–Hartford Investment Financial Services L.L.C., HL Investment Advisors L.L.C. and Hartford Securities Distribution Company Inc.– have agreed to give up $40 million in gains related to the shelf space arrangements and pay a $15 million fine. All $55 million will go to the affected Hartford Financial funds, the company says.

The company also has formed a disclosure review committee to review investment product disclosures.

Hartford Financial Chairman Ramani Ayer says in a statement that the company stopped using the broker-dealer compensation arrangements described by the SEC in 2003, and that the company has cooperated with the SEC.

“It was important to our company to have this matter resolved,” Ayer says in the statement.


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