The SEC has settled charges against 79 advisory firms that have been ordered to pay more than $125 million to mostly retail clients harmed in the sale of higher-priced mutual fund share classes when lower-priced share classes were available.

The firms include Wells Fargo, LPL, Raymond James Financial, Stifel, Oppenheimer, RBC, Hilliard Lyons, Janney Montgomery Scott and TIAA-CREF. A complete list of the 79 firms, the charges and the settlements can be found below.

The settlements are the result of the SEC’s Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative, which the SEC’s Division of Enforcement announced in February 2018, as reported. The SEC said the initiative was meant to identify and help the harmed investors recover their losses.

Under that initiative, the SEC agreed not to recommend financial penalties for advisors who self-reported failure to disclose receipt of 12b-1 fees – which are recurring fees deducted from the fund’s assets – in recommending mutual fund share classes when lower-priced share classes of the same mutual fund were available. Instead, the SEC recommended standardized, favorable settlement terms to advisors who self-reported by June 12, 2018.

On Monday the SEC issued orders to each of the 79 firms who participated in the initiative and either “directly or indirectly” received 12b-1 fees for investments selected for their clients without adequate disclosure, including disclosures that were inconsistent with the advisors’ actual practices.

The SEC said those firms “failed to adequately disclose conflicts of interest” related to the sale of higher-cost mutual fund share classes when a lower-cost share class was available.

The regulator explained that the 12b-1 fees charged by those firms were routinely paid to investment advisors in their capacity as brokers, to their broker-dealer affiliates or to their personnel who were also registered representatives.

The SEC stresses that advisors “as fiduciaries, have an obligation to make full and fair disclosure to clients and prospective clients” about material conflicts of interest, including conflicts arising from financial incentives and to act consistently with those disclosures.

“Regardless of the scope and duration of the investment advisory services, investment advisers are fiduciaries and, as such, their duties of care and loyalty require them to disclose their conflicts of interest, including financial incentives,” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton says in a statement.


“Investment advisors play a vital and trusted role in our markets. They offer a wide array of products and services to our retail investors, ranging from one-time advice on a model investment portfolio to comprehensive planning combined with continuous investment advice and other services,” Clayton adds.

Steven Peikin, co-director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, called the initiative an “efficient approach to remedy a pervasive problem” that harmed mostly retail investors.

The 79 firms that settled with the SEC under the Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative. Click on each company’s name to read the charges and settlement: