November 17, 2010
November 5th was the dead line... I respectfully hope my input will still be considered.
I've been working with middle class investors since my first client meeting in 1992. Changing the 12b-1 rule seems like a good intended consumer friendly change but like the say "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" and what will help investors by reducing their costs my hurt them in the long run.
12b-1 fees are the back bone that supports the low cost distribution of mutual funds. Many argue what I do for a living is redundant since buying mutual funds isn't hard. Setting up a portfolio isn't hard. Understanding and complying with IRS rules isn't hard but few people take the time to really figure this out or more importantly do what is needed over time to make middle class investing work.
Over the years I've been in well over 2000 homes and I can count on my hands the number of families who were doing everything by the book. What most dont understand is little mistakes over time add up and the value of so called common sense advice is priceless. The elimination of the 12b-1 fee may end up costing investors more or worse prevent some from getting needed advice.
Clearly these changes are intended to "help" the small investor. However, the unintended consequences may do just the opposite. Advisors like me who don't do wrap fees will stop selling lower cost "A" shares with 12b-1 fees in favor of other products or worse we will start putting small investors into wrap accounts ranging from .5% to 2.5% per year.
Contrary to what many so called experts profess I state unequivocally that the sales person/advisor performs a unique and crucial role that will likely cease for the small investor if the advisor can't make a living. Changing the 12b-1 rule or what we in the industry call trails is intended to save the small uneducated investor money but it is these investors who really need assistance. Assistance they will not get if advisors arent compensated.