usiness graph with arrow showing profits and gains

U.S. securities regulators report that a long-running effort to combat mutual fund overcharging has produced US$89 million in restitution to investors.

U.S. industry self-regulatory organization the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has reported that, over the past several years, it has reached settlements with a total of 56 brokerage firms involving allegations that they overcharged clients by failing to waive sales charges for eligible clients, and that the firms failed to properly supervise their waiver practices.

Those settlements generated US$89 million in restitution for nearly 110,000 retirement and charitable accounts.

“This was a multi-year effort with the goal of obtaining meaningful restitution for mutual fund investors who were not afforded the sales charge waivers they were entitled to,” Susan Schroeder, executive vice president in FINRA’s enforcement division, said in a statement.

FINRA reported that 43 of the firms were not fined because they provided “extraordinary cooperation” to the SRO. The other 13 firms were fined a combined US$1.32 million.

“Ensuring that harmed customers are made whole is our highest priority and in some instances, FINRA granted credit for extraordinary cooperation to those firms who were proactive in identifying and fixing the issue, and who quickly remediated affected customers,” Schroeder said.

FINRA began tackling the issue back in 2015, when it reached its first settlements with 10 firms who self-reported that reps failed to waive mutual fund sales charges for eligible accounts.

After that first set of cases, firms continued to self-report, while other violations were uncovered in compliance exams and a compliance sweep that the SRO carried out targeting the issue.

Overall, FINRA reported that it sanctioned 11 firms through the sweep, and reached settlements with 35 other firms that largely self-reported before the sweep.