Edward Jones Details Payments by 7 Funds
By Chris Sanders
Brokerage firm Edward D. Jones & Co. disclosed it was paid $82.4 million from seven mutual fund companies, including those run by Goldman Sachs Group and American Funds, to recommend their funds over others.
The disclosure on Thursday was required under a $75 million settlement reached in December with the St. Louis brokerage firm, a leading seller of mutual funds. Regulators said the company failed to disclose to customers tens of millions of dollars in "revenue sharing" payments.
In a posting to its Web site, the company detailed payments during the first 11 months of 2004 made by American Funds, Federated Investors, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Hartford Mutual Funds, Lord Abbett & Co., Putnam Investments, a unit of insurance broker Marsh & McLennan Cos., and Morgan Stanley subsidiary Van Kampen Investments.
The December settlement -- reached with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Stock Exchange and brokerage firm watchdog NASD -- related to payments Edward Jones received from mutual fund firms, but had not revealed to investors who had purchased its preferred slate of funds.
Putnam said it does not comment on client relationships, but a spokeswoman said the company provides revenue-sharing disclosure in its prospectuses -- a point several of the companies also made.
American Funds' Chuck Freadhoff said the payments were made to help compensate Edward Jones for the cost associated with educating the broker's sales force. The money came from the revenue of its distribution company, and not from the funds American Funds manages, he said.
"Everything we have done certainly met all the rules and regulations of the SEC and NASD," Freadhoff said.
For Hartford, Edward Jones has been an important distributor since it began selling mutual funds in 1996 and was compensated as one of its key broker-dealers, a company spokesman said.
Lord Abbett, Goldman Sachs and Van Kampen declined to comment and Federated said it does not discuss its business relationships.
The NASD and SEC declined to comment on the Web posting. SEC spokesman John Nester said investigations of several funds and brokers for revenue sharing practices are ongoing.
Edward Jones has defended its practice of showing customers a list of "preferred families" of mutual funds from which to choose, saying on its Web site "you may be overwhelmed" by the task of selecting an appropriate fund.
"Edward Jones believes that you are better served if the firm focuses on a select group of mutual fund families that offer a broad spectrum of mutual funds," the company said.
An Edward Jones representative declined further comment.
Sales involving the seven mutual fund families represented about 95 percent of all Edward Jones fund sales over the past five years.
California sued Edward Jones in December over revenue sharing, also known as "shelf-space" arrangements, and blasted the $75 million settlement with regulators as inadequate. (Additional reporting by Herbert Lash)