Three AIG affiliates will pay more than $9.5 million to settle charges that they pushed mutual fund investors into more expensive share classes in an effort to collect more fees.
In an administrative proceeding on Monday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged three firms — New York-based Royal Alliance Associates, Phoenix-based SagePoint Financial and Atlanta-based FSC Securities Association — with violations of anti-fraud provisions of the Advisers Act.
As part of their settlement, the firms agreed to cease committing violations, to receive an SEC censure, and to pay $7.5 million in civil penalties and $2 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, but did not have to admit or deny the SEC’s findings.
In its investigation, the SEC found that from 2012 to 2014 the three firms placed clients into share classes that paid 12b-1 fees and other expenses despite the clients’ eligibility to buy shares that did not carry such fees.
The firms allegedly failed to disclose they had a financial incentive to place clients in the higher-fee share classes in their Forms ADV or in conversations with clients, which the SEC says resulted in the collection of $2 million in extra fees and a breach of the firms’ fiduciary duties as investment advisors.
The SEC also found that, during 2013, the firms failed to monitor advisory accounts quarterly for inactivity or ‘reverse churning.’
As part of their agreement with the SEC, the firms will retain an independent compliance consultant to review their policies and procedures related to the sections of the Advisers Act that were allegedly breached, adopt and implement the consultant’s recommendations, and keep records attesting to their ongoing compliance with the SEC’s order for a minimum of six years.