Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The SEC charged Morgan Stanley Investment Management (MSIM) with violating securities laws in a fee arrangement that repeatedly charged a fund and its investors for advisory services they weren’t actually receiving from a third party. According to the SEC, MSIM — the primary investment adviser to The Malaysia Fund — represented to investors and the fund’s board of directors that it contracted a Malaysian-based sub-adviser to provide advice, research and assistance to MSIM for the benefit of the fund, which invests in equity securities of Malaysian companies. The sub-adviser did not provide these purported advisory services, yet the fund’s board annually renewed the contract based on MSIM’s representations for more than a decade at a total cost of $1.845 million to investors.
The SEC’s Asset Management Unit has an initiative inquiring into the investment advisory contract renewal process and fee arrangements in the fund industry.
“We want to take the advisory fee setting process out of the shadows by scrutinizing the role of investment advisers and fund board members in vetting fee arrangements with registered funds,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.
The SEC’s order finds that MSIM willfully violated Sections 15(c) and 34(b) of the Investment Company Act and Sections 206(2) and (4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and Rule 206(4)-7 thereunder. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, MSIM agreed to a censure and to cease and desist from committing or causing any violations and any future violations of those provisions. MSIM agreed to repay the fund $1.845 million for the sub-adviser’s fees and pay a $1.5 million penalty. MSIM also agreed to implement policies and procedures specifically governing the Section 15(c) process and its oversight of service providers.