July 19, 2006
SEC Rules on Soft Money
The SEC has narrowed the forms of soft money payments that brokers can make to buy side funds. I am missing something here. Buy side funds "overpay" brokers (with high commissions) and the brokers return part of the commissions in services (soft money). The surplus of the paid commissions over the value of the returned services is the actual commission paid. The actual commission is passed on to customers of the funds in fund fees. If the market works, the investor fees would be at competitive rate and the actual commissions would be at competitive rates. Apparently the market is not competitive because the SEC is regulating the form of the actual commissions beyond simple rules requiring transparency. If the market is not competitive, soft money payments are least of our problems -- there are real problems in the fees structure. The SEC is imposing a salve on a bleeding ulcer. If the market is competitive, we do not need the rules. Either way the rules are ill considered.
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