Two Wachovia units have agreed to fines totaling over $4.5 million for violations related to the sales of unit investment trusts and mutual funds. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority announced the fines last week. By agreeing to settle, Wachovia, which is now owned by Wells Fargo Bank, is not admitting to or denying wrongdoing.
Wachovia Securities is being fined $4.4 million for failing to give investors sales-charge discounts for eligible unit-investment-trust-transactions, for not making sure investors were given the benefit of net-asset-value transfer programs whenever they were applicable in mutual fund purchases, and for unsuitability violations involving Class B and Class C mutual fund shares.
FINRA also says Wachovia Securities neglected to provide breakpoint and rollover discounts connected to over 20,000 unit-investment-trust purchases. As a result, customers ended up paying excess sales charges worth about $2.7 million.
When a customer pays a sales charge, NAV transfer programs let clients redeem fund shares and use these proceeds to purchase shares in a different mutual fund without having to pay another sales charge. FINRA cites Wachovia’s failure to ensure that investors availed of these kinds of programs as the reason customers ended up paying front-end charges they shouldn’t have or purchasing share classes that were accompanied by higher fees. Also, Wachovia Securities Financial Network must pay a $150,000 fine for the improper sale of Class B shares. Both firms were cited for inadequate supervisory procedures connected to the transactions.
According to FINRA enforcement chief Susan Merrill, failing to recommend an appropriate share class or present existing discounts creates additional costs to investors. She cautioned that regulated firms should take into account all applicable factors when making recommendations to clients.
Wachovia says that its units have returned over $5.4 million to customers affected by the violations.
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FINRA Fines 2 Wachovia Units Over $4.5 Million For Sales Violations