June 21, 2007
I am writing to express my concerns about the SEC's ongoing review of Rule 12b-1. Middle class Americans need the continuing service, guidance and support that are provided by independent financial advisors to achieve their stated investment goals. 12b-1 fees provide a tax efficient means to support the continuing service which these clients require for successful investing. The benefits of 12b-1 fees are numerous and include:
.Expanding Investor Choice - The multiple share classes made possible by Rule 12b-1 give investors choices by providing them with options in how they pay their financial advisor. The flexibility offered by Rule 12b-1 allows financial advisors to tailor a portfolio to their client's specific needs.
.Supporting Financial Literacy - Mutual funds send their investors monthly statements, confirmations, prospectuses, annual reports, and other materials. Financial advisors serve the vital role of educators by helping investors to make sense of these essential materials. 12b-1 fees are the compensation financial advisors receive for these efforts.
.Managing Client Expectations - We all know the common mistakes investors make; buying high and selling low, chasing past performance and harboring unrealistic expectations. 12b-1 fees provide financial advisors with compensation to manage their client's expectations and protect them from falling into this common investor traps. If 12b-1 fees go away financial advisors will be forced to change how they do business with clients. That will mean accounts will probably be moved to some type of fee based accounts that will mean investors fees will go up and not down. Advisors obviously cannot afford to "service" accounts with no compensation. Many investors will be forced to move out of exiting mutual funds if they want advice and in many cases will create a tax liability thus hurting investors.
.Insuring Small Accounts Receive Service - Investment advisory services are simply out of the reach of many small account holders. Financial advisors must have another means of being fairly compensated for servicing these accounts. 12b-1 fees provide the mechanism to insure small investors receive the support and service they need to achieve their financial goals.
.Subsidizing Additional Services - Independent financial advisors offer their mutual fund clients a variety of additional services including: consolidated account statements, periodic portfolio review meetings, quarterly newsletters, cost basis research, and consulting on other financial decisions. These important services are made possible by the subsidy 12b-1 fees provide.
In conclusion, while it is reasonable to review the investor benefits of 12b-1 fees, it is obvious that the repeal of 12b-1 has the potential to cause great harm to thousands of individual investors who need the support and service of a trained financial advisor. As a result, I urge the SEC to allow Rule 12b-1 to continue to support my efforts to provide needed financial services to middle class American investors pursuing the financial goals. The fact is our costs of doing business have gone up dramatically over the last few years partly due to the increased cost of compliance. Our 12b-1 fees have not increased for the 20 plus years I have been in business. Most of my clients still own funds in the same family of funds they initially started with in order to eliminate paying new front end fees. The 15 to 50 basis points I am collecting on these accounts are not really enough for the service I provide. If I am forced to give up these fees, it will cost the client more as I w ill certainly charge more than that in an advisory account.
Certified Financial Planner professional
Berthel Fisher and Company