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Wednesday, February 22, 2005

Nancy Condon (202) 728-8379

Herb Perone (202) 728-8464

 

NASD Fines Quick & Reilly, Piper Jaffray $845,000

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Washington, DC—NASD today announced that it has fined Quick & Reilly, Inc. (now part of Banc of America Investment Services, Inc.) $570,000 and Piper Jaffray & Co. $275,000 for directed brokerage violations. In imposing sanctions against Piper Jaffray, NASD took into account the fact that the firm self-reported its violative conduct after conducting its own internal review. The two cases are the latest enforcement actions in NASD's ongoing effort to crack down on directed brokerage abuses.


NASD found that both firms operated "preferred partner" or "shelf space" programs, giving favorable treatment to funds offered by certain mutual fund companies in return for brokerage commissions and other payments.  That special treatment included higher visibility on the firms' internal websites, increased access to the firms' sales forces, participation in "top producer" or training meetings, and promotion of their funds on a broader basis than was available for other funds.  That conduct violated NASD's "Anti-Reciprocal Rule" which prohibits firms from favoring the sale of shares of particular mutual funds on the basis of brokerage commissions.


"The purpose of the rule is to help eliminate conflicts of interest in the sale of mutual funds," said Mary L. Schapiro, NASD Vice Chairman.  "These sorts of arrangements encourage the inappropriate use of mutual fund commission dollars and have the potential to improperly influence a firm's judgment when making recommendations to their clients."


Both firms offered a preferred partner program to a relatively small number of mutual fund families. Piper Jaffray, which operated its preferred partner program from 1998 to 2003, included only 12 to 15 fund complexes in the program, but sold funds offered by more than 100 fund complexes. Quick & Reilly maintained its program from 2001 to 2003 and included only 16 to 20 fund complexes, while it sold funds offered by about 300 fund complexes.


The participating mutual fund companies paid the firms extra fees in addition to regular sales fees. Piper Jaffray negotiated those extra payments with mutual fund companies each year, asking for minimum payments of $100,000 to $125,000. Some fund complexes paid a flat fee; others paid amounts based on a percentage of gross fund sales and the average daily assets under management for the fund complex. Quick & Reilly charged participating fund complexes 10 basis points on the gross amount of sales and five basis points on the average daily assets under management, subject to a minimum annual payment of $75,000.


Several of the funds participating in the preferred partner programs paid part or all of the extra fees by directing the funds' brokerage business to the firms.  The commissions were generated by the funds through portfolio transactions which the funds executed either through the firm, in the case of Piper Jaffray, or through an affiliate or third party, in the case of Quick and Reilly. 


Piper Jaffray, on its own initiative, conducted an internal review of the general subject matter involved in the case and self-reported its findings to NASD staff.  "This type of self-examination and self-reporting by a registered firm benefits NASD's enforcement program and investors by allowing for cost-effective enforcement and timely remedial action, and was taken into account in assessing sanctions against Piper Jaffray," Schapiro said.


In settling these matters, the two firms neither admitted nor denied the charges, but consented to the entry of NASD's findings.


NASD has brought three previous actions for similar violations.  Earlier this month, NASD charged American Funds Distributors with violating NASD's Anti-Reciprocal Rule by directing approximately $100 million in brokerage commissions over a three-year period to about 50 brokerage firms that were the top sellers of American Funds. (See NASD News Release 2/16/05.)  In November 2003, NASD sanctioned Morgan Stanley DW Inc. for giving preferential treatment to certain mutual fund companies in return for approximately $15 million in brokerage commissions.  That case was brought in conjunction with an action filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in which Morgan Stanley agreed to pay $50 million in civil penalties and surrendered profits. (See NASD News Release 11/17/03.)  In December 2004, Edward D. Jones & Co., L.P., agreed to pay $75 million in resolution of charges that it failed to adequately disclose revenue sharing payments that it received from a select group of mutual fund families that it recommended to its customers, that it received directed brokerage payments in violation of the Anti-Reciprocal rule, and for other violations in settlements with NASD, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the New York Stock Exchange. (See NASD News Release 12/24/04.)


Investors can obtain more information about, and the disciplinary record of, any NASD-registered broker or brokerage firm by using NASD's BrokerCheck.  NASD makes BrokerCheck available at no charge to the public.  In 2004, members of the public used this service to conduct more than 3.8 million searches for existing brokers or firms and requested more than 190,000 reports in cases where disclosable information existed on a broker or firm.  Investors can link directly to BrokerCheck at www.nasdbrokercheck.com.  Investors can also access this service by calling (800) 289-9999.


NASD is the leading private-sector provider of financial regulatory services, dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation and complementary compliance and technology-based services.  NASD touches virtually every aspect of the securities business - from registering and educating all industry participants, to examining securities firms, enforcing both NASD rules and the federal securities laws, and administering the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and member firms.  For more information, please visit our Web site at www.nasd.com.