In an October 2019 update, we highlighted that the SEC’s attention to Rule 12b-1 fees for over 40 years, along with more recent initiatives, enforcement activities, and FAQs suggested that the Commission would likely continue to closely scrutinize investment advisers’ share class selection and related compensation practices at least for the foreseeable future.

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This post continues my discussion of the IM Guidance Update released on January 6, 2016, in which the SEC staff urges boards to consider the following factors in meeting the staff’s expectations of boards, vis-à-vis Rule 12b-1 and Rule 38a-1, in overseeing the use of fund assets to cover what the staff has dubbed “Sub-Accounting Fees” for recordkeeping, sub-transfer agent, and other purely administrative services (“Sub-Accounting Services”) that intermediaries provide to shareholders:

Since the SEC’s mutual fund distribution sweep examination began in 2013, the industry has become increasingly focused on the various types of payments made to intermediaries selling fund shares and providing services to shareholders.  Fund assets may, of course, be used to compensate intermediaries for marketing and other distribution-related costs, including “shelf space” on sales platforms, only under a board-approved Rule 12b-1 plan.  Outside of a 12b-1 plan, Fund assets may be used to cover what the SEC has dubbed “Sub-Accounting Fees” for recordkeeping, sub-transfer agent, and other purely administrative services (“Sub-Accounting Services”) that intermediaries provide to shareholders.