Breakpoint discounts are volume discounts to the front-end sales load charged to investors who purchase Class A mutual fund shares. The extent of the discount depends on the amount invested in a particular family of funds. For example, a mutual fund might charge a front-end load of 5.75 percent for share purchases of less than $50,000, but reduce the load to 4.50 percent for investments between $50,000 and $99,999, and further reduce or eliminate the load for larger investments.
Investors can qualify for breakpoints through a single purchase of Class A mutual fund shares, with a letter of intent (LOI) or through rights of accumulation (ROA). An LOI allows investors to receive breakpoint discounts based on a commitment to buy a specified number of shares over a period of time, usually 13 months. For example, by signing an LOI to buy $25,000 worth of fund shares over the course of a year in $5,000 increments, an investor can obtain the $25,000 breakpoint discount on each $5,000 purchase.
An ROA allows an investor to aggregate his own fund shares with the holdings of certain related parties, such as spouses and children, toward achieving the investment thresholds at which breakpoint discounts become available. Investors also may be able to aggregate holdings they have in different accounts at the same broker-dealer, at different broker-dealers, or in different types of accounts, such as 401(k)s and 529 plans, as well as the holdings in the accounts of related parties toward achieving an investment threshold at which a breakpoint discount is available.
In the process of conducting routine firm examinations in 2002, NASD identified problems in mutual fund transactions, in which eligible customers did not always receive their entitled breakpoints. In 2003, at the request of the SEC, NASD, joined by the Securities Industry Association (SIA) and the Investment Company Institute (ICI), led a task force on breakpoints charged with recommending industry-wide changes to address errors and missed opportunities to provide breakpoint discounts.
As a result, FINRA has taken a number of steps to ensure that investors who did not receive appropriate discounts are able to obtain a refund and that in the future investors will receive all discounts to which they are entitled.
Breakpoint Disclosure Statement
To assist firms in fulfilling their obligation to provide all available breakpoint discounts on the sales of front-end load mutual funds, FINRA recommends that firms at the time of purchase or periodically thereafter provide investors with a Written Disclosure Statement explaining the availability of breakpoint discounts. FINRA provides this statement as an example of what it believes is appropriate. Firms may wish to tailor the statement to reflect the rules of the mutual funds they sell.
Assisting Your Clients
You can help your clients assess their opportunities to receive breakpoint discounts by taking the following steps:
- Become familiar with breakpoint discounts offered by the mutual funds that you sell. These are located in a fund's prospectus and/or statement of additional information.
- Discuss with your clients whether breakpoint discounts are available before they buy mutual fund shares.
- Ask your clients for the information necessary to determine their eligibility for breakpoint discounts, such as their fund holdings and the holdings of their spouse or children, among other relatives.
- Record this information in each client's file so it can be applied to future purchases of a particular fund, which might result in additional breakpoint discounts.
FINRA provides an outline for training associated persons involved in the sale of Class A shares of front-end load mutual funds. The purpose of the outline is to ensure that registered representatives understand the specific issues that govern breakpoint eligibility. The outline serves as a model of the critical breakpoint topics firms should address in training.
Since FINRA recognizes that every firm has a unique business model, firm element training methods and content may vary. However, every firm that sells or anticipates selling mutual funds, no matter its business model, should cover the topics listed in parts I and II of the outline. FINRA also has developed the Breakpoint Checklist and Breakpoint Worksheet to help firms and associated persons gather the information necessary to deliver available discounts on the sales of Class A shares.
FINRA's Office of General Counsel (OGC) staff provides broker-dealers, attorneys, registered representatives, investors and other interested parties with interpretative guidance relating to FINRA’s rules. Please see FINRA OGC Interpretative Guidance for more information.
OGC staff contact:
1735 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
- FINRA Provides Guidance on Common Sales Charge Discounts and Waivers for Investment Company Products
- NASD Reminds Members of Their Duty to Ensure Proper Application of Discounts in Sales Charges to Sales of Unit Investment Trusts (UITs)
- Refunds to Customers Who Did Not Receive Appropriate Breakpoint Discounts in Connection with the Purchase of Class A Shares of Front-End Load Mutual Funds and the Capital Treatment of Refund Liability
- NASD Requires Immediate Member Firm Action Regarding Mutual Fund Purchases and Breakpoint Schedules
- SEC Approves Rule Change Relating To Mutual Fund Breakpoint Sales
- GuidanceAt the request of the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"), NASD convened and led a Joint NASD/Industry Breakpoint Task Force, with representatives from, among others, Investment Company Institute ("ICI"), Securities Industry Association ("SIA"), National Security Clearing Corporation ("NSCC"), broker/dealers, mutual funds, and transfer agents, to examine the difficulties that the financial industry experienced delivering breakpoint discounts on Class A mutual fund share sales and to develop recommendations to facilitate the complete and accurate delivery of breakpoint discounts in the future.July 22, 2003
- Report / Study
In a letter to NASD Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert R. Glauber, dated January 15, 2003, former Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Chairman Harvey L. Pitt requested that NASD, joined by the Securities Industry Association (“SIA”) and the Investment Company Institute (“ICI”), convene a task force to recommend industry-wide changes to address errors and missed opportunities to provide discounts in the calculation of sales loads charged on the purchase of mutual fund shares that carry a front-end sales load.July 12, 2003
- Compliance ToolsTo assist the financial industry in fulfilling its obligation to provide all available breakpoint discounts on sales of Class A shares of front-end load mutual funds, the Joint NASD/Industry Task Force recommended that broker/dealers require registered representatives to complete standardized checklists or worksheets, which record the relevant account data, when executing Class A shares transactions.
- FAQQuestions and answers regarding the Mutual Fund Breakpoint Assessment
- Compliance ToolsNASD directed all firms that processed more than a minimal amount of mutual fund transactions using an automated process to conduct a self-assessment of their mutual fund transactions in 2001 and 2002 and the sales discounts provided, and to submit the results to NASD. As of July 30, 2003, the 642 firms listed below submitted assessment results to NASD.
- GuidanceThe Joint NASD/Industry Task Force urges mutual funds to include these definitions in their prospectuses and other relevant materials as soon as is reasonably practicable.
- FAQThis list of Frequently Asked Questions covers topics such as Rights of Accumulation (ROA) and Letters of Intent (LOI), as well as resources to help you educate your clients.
- Compliance ToolsTo assist the financial industry in fulfilling its obligation to provide all available breakpoint discounts on sales of front end load mutual funds, the Joint NASD/Industry Task Force recommended that broker-dealers provide investors with a Written Disclosure Statement, explaining the availability of breakpoint discounts, at the time of purchase or on a periodic basis.
- Compliance ToolsThe Joint NASD/Industry Task Force recommended two changes to mutual fund confirmations that are intended to help investors determine whether they received all the breakpoints discounts to which they were entitled on each mutual fund transaction.
- FINRA Sanctions Barclays Capital, Inc. $13.75 Million for Unsuitable Mutual Fund Transactions and Related Supervisory FailuresDecember 29, 2015
- FINRA Sanctions 12 Firms a Total of $6.7 Million for Failing to Apply Sales Charge Discounts to Customers' Purchases of UITsOctober 20, 2015
- FINRA Fines Wells Fargo $2 Million for Unsuitable Sales of Reverse Convertibles to Elderly Customers and Failure to Provide Breakpoints on UIT SalesDecember 15, 2011
- August 18, 2010
- FINRA Fines 25 Firms More Than $2.1 Million for Failures in Mutual Fund Breakpoint Review, Other ViolationsMarch 23, 2009
- February 18, 2009
- FINRA Fines Oppenheimer $1 Million to Settle Charges that It Produced Flawed, Incomplete and Untimely Data in Breakpoint Self-AssessmentOctober 30, 2007
- Investor AlertYou may be eligible for a refund of a portion of the front-end sales charge that you paid when you purchased Class A shares of a mutual fund from your securities firm. An industry-wide survey indicated that investors did not receive discounts in approximately one out of every five transactions that were eligible for discounts.
- Investor AlertMutual funds often offer discounts on front-end sales charges or loads for larger investments. The investment levels at which the discounts become available are called "breakpoints."