Between July 2014 and December 2018, Commonwealth received over $100 million in revenue sharing from the broker related to client investments in certain share classes of “no transaction fee” and “transaction fee” mutual funds, the complaint states. The arrangement between Commonwealth and NFS was also interesting as it was structured. According to the SEC Complaint, Commonwealth purchased or sold no transaction fee mutual funds share and clients did not pay a transaction fee. HOWEVER, clients did pay fees to the mutual fund for their share of fund expenses for as long as they held the fund and in turn the mutual fund paid a portion of these fees to NFS. NFS then shared a portion of those fees it received with Commonwealth.
The SEC’s complaint explains that Commonwealth’s receipt of the revenue sharing from NFS created significant conflicts of interest between Commonwealth and its clients. These conflicts included financial incentives for Commonwealth to invest clients in mutual funds which would lead to greater revenue for Commonwealth. The Complaint says that Commonwealth breached its fiduciary duty to its clients by failing to disclose the conflicts of interest created by its receipt of compensation through the revenue sharing agreement. Specifically, the SEC’s complaint alleges that Commonwealth “failed to tell its clients that (i) there were mutual fund share class investments that were less expensive to clients than some of the mutual fund share class investments that resulted in revenue sharing payments to Commonwealth, (ii) there were mutual fund investments that did not result in any revenue sharing payments to Commonwealth, and (iii) there were revenue sharing payments to Commonwealth under the broker’s ‘transaction fee’ program.”