The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is getting ready to address the status of annuities with returns linked to the performance of stock indices and similar financial benchmarks.

“Possibly as early this month, we’ll consider a proposed rule to deal with the long-standing investor protection issue of equity-indexed annuities, and when they should be treated as securities,” SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said recently in Washington, at a conference organized by the Chartered Financial Analysts Institute, Charlottesville, Va.

“This is an important issue on which we’ve been closely collaborating with [the North American Securities Administrators Association Inc.] and our state securities regulatory counterparts,” Cox said. “And it is of particular importance to senior investors.”

The indexed annuity initiative is one of many that the SEC is working on this year, Cox said.

Another initiative concerns mutual fund 12b-1 fees. The SEC will “formally consider proposed amendments to overhaul or abolish 12b-1 fees, which have befuddled mutual fund investors for so long,” Cox said.