July 11, 2007
I am writing to express my concerns about the SEC's ongoing review of Rule 12b-1. I am a financial advisor serving many middle class clients. 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 are obvious.
By providing reasonable compensation (.25% in most cases) to financial advisors for the services they provide to clients, 12b-1 fees allow average investors to obtain professional guidance for their investment programs. Not only are 12b-1 fees generally lower than the fees charged directly to clients in a direct-fee environment, but many clients are simply resistant to paying fees if they are charged directly. The current 12b-1 system is simple, and less costly than having to bill clients directly for an advisor's services. An advisor is relieved of the billing and collection headaches often associated with direct-fee relationships.
The data is clear - Americans need and want access to financial professionals in order to help assure their financial security. Advisors provide education, asset allocation, and assurance in turbulent markets. The population is aging, and there are many options and choices for investors to wade through. It is in our nation's self-interest to make sure its citizens are financially secure. Having affordable access to a professional advisor who is compensated by 12b-1 fees, makes sense for many, many Americans. Middle income earners and those with small account balances benefit immensely. If a client chooses to pay a higher fee directly to an advisor for additional value-added services, that is fine. However, the SEC should not mandate how, or how much, Americans should pay for advice and service - let the market decide that. 12b-1 fees serve as a "base" for the average investor to compensate their chosen advisor. If a client wishes to obtain more that the basic servi ce, and is willing to pay for it, that should be their decision, not the SEC's.
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. If the outcome of the review is to promote more disclosure of 12b-1 fees, I believe that is entirely acceptable to advisors and their clients. However, I urge the SEC to allow 12b-1 to continue to support my efforts to provide needed financial services to middle class American investors pursuing the financial goals
D.A. WATSON & CO.