The Investment Company Institute (ICI), the national association of the U.S. mutual fund industry, today released the findings of a new survey into the 12b-1 fees collected by mutual funds.
Since 1980, when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission instituted 12b-1 fees, these charges have provided funds and their shareholders with different ways to compensate financial advisers. Prior to 1980, individual investors had only one way to compensate advisers: pay a front-end sales load – a one-time, upfront payment.
The growth of 12b-1 fees, which totalled $10 billion in 2004, reflects a shift by mutual funds and their investors away from front-end sales loads to 12b-1 fees as a mechanism to compensate advisers and other intermediaries who provide assistance to shareholders. ICI Chief Economist Brian Reid said that the typical front-end sales load has declined from 8 percent in 1980 to 5 percent in 2004. “Over the past 25 years, as fund assets have grown 60-fold, total 12b-1 fees have registered strong growth,” Reid noted.
Among its findings, the ICI study reveals that 92 percent of the 12b-1 fees mutual funds collect from investors are allocated to financial advisers or other intermediaries to compensate them for assisting shareholders before and after purchasing funds. The survey also found only a small fraction of 12b-1 fees, sometimes called distribution and shareholder servicing fees, is used for advertising and promotion.
“For the vast majority of investors to reach their long-term investment goals, the advice and ongoing services of professional financial advisers is of great value,” says ICI President Paul Schott Stevens. “Clearly, 12b-1 fees have become an important vehicle through which shareholders pay for the advice and services they receive.”
The findings of the ICI survey are in a Fundamentals report, “How Mutual Funds Use 12b-1 Fees.” The survey is based on responses from mutual fund complexes that manage 75 percent of the assets of mutual funds with 12b-1 fees.