The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has ordered PNC Investments (PNCI), Securities America Advisors, and Geneos Wealth Management to collectively pay almost $15m to settle allegations that they breached fiduciary duties towards clients and generated millions of dollars of improper fees in the process.
Out of $15m, more than $12m will go to harmed clients, the regulator said.
The regulator accused the three investment advisers of failing to reveal conflicts of interest and violating their duty to seek best execution by investing advisory clients in higher-cost mutual fund shares though lower-cost shares of the same funds were available.
In its 2017 disclosure brochure, Geneos failed to identify its revised mutual fund selection disclosures as a ‘material change’, the regulator noted.
SEC co-chief of the asset management unit C. Dabney O’Riordan said: “These disclosure failures cause real harm to clients. We strongly encourage eligible firms to participate in the recently announced Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative as part of an effort to stop these violations and return money to harmed investors as quickly as possible.”
The regulator also alleged that PNCI and Geneos did not reveal the conflict of interest associated with payment they received from third parties for investing clients in particular mutual funds.
The SEC’s orders also found that PNCI wrongly charged advisory fees to client accounts for periods when there was no assigned investment advisory representative.
As per the orders, PNCI is required to pay $6.4m in disgorgement and prejudgment interest along with a $900,000 fine.
Securities America Advisors and Geneos will have to pay $5.05m and $1.56m in disgorgement and prejudgment interest along with a $775,000 and $250,000 in penalty, respectively.