PNC Investments LLC, Securities America Advisors Inc., and Geneos Wealth Management Inc. have settled charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly breaching fiduciary duties to clients and generating millions of dollars of improper fees in the process.
The SEC claims that the three investment advisers failed to disclose conflicts of interest and violated their duty to seek best execution by investing advisory clients in higher-cost mutual fund shares when lower-cost shares of the same funds were available.
The SEC also charged Geneos for failing to identify its revised mutual fund selection disclosures as a “material change” in its 2017 disclosure brochure. Collectively, the firms will pay almost $15 million, with more than $12 million going to harmed clients.
“These disclosure failures cause real harm to clients,” said C. Dabney O’Riordan, co-chief of the SEC’s asset management unit. “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 share class selection disclosure initiative gives eligible advisers until June 12, 2018 to self-report similar misconduct and take advantage of the SEC’s enforcement division willingness to recommend more favorable settlement terms, including no civil penalties against the adviser,” the regulator said.
The SEC’s orders also found that PNC Investments and Geneos failed to disclose the conflict of interest associated with compensation they received from third parties for investing clients in particular mutual funds, and that PNC Investments improperly charged advisory fees to client accounts for periods when there was no assigned investment advisory representative.
The SEC claims that the three advisers violated provisions of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, including an antifraud provision. Without admitting or denying the findings, each consented to a cease-and-desist order and a censure.
PNC Investments was fined $6.4 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest along with a $900,000 penalty. Securities America Advisors must pay approximately $5.1 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest along with a $775,000 penalty. Geneos must pay nearly $1.6 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest along with a $250,000 penalty.