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Two Advisory Firms, CEO Charged With Mutual Fund Share Class Disclosure Violations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2018-303

Washington D.C.  —  The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced settled charges against two New York-based investment advisers and the CEO of one of the advisers who selected mutual fund share classes inconsistent with their disclosures to clients. The firms and the CEO will collectively pay more than $1.8 million, which will be returned to harmed investors.

According to the SEC's orders, American Portfolios Advisers Inc., PPS Advisors Inc., and PPS's Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer, Lawrence Nicholas Passaretti, invested advisory clients in mutual fund share classes that paid 12b-1 fees to the firms' investment adviser representatives (IARs), even though less expensive share classes of the same funds were available. The orders find that American Portfolios and PPS failed to disclose conflicts of interest, violated their duty to seek best execution, and failed to implement policies and procedures designed to prevent violations of federal securities laws in connection with their mutual fund share class selection practices.  In particular, in disclosures to clients, American Portfolios incorrectly stated that its IARs either did not receive 12b-1 fees or only selected the more expensive share classes when less expensive share classes of the same fund were unavailable, while PPS incorrectly stated that it selected higher-cost share classes for the "long-term benefit" of clients and only where less expensive share classes of the same fund were unavailable.

"Advisers must be vigilant in disclosing all conflicts of interest arising from compensation received based on investment decisions made for clients," said C. Dabney O'Riordan, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division's Asset Management Unit. "The documents these advisers provided to clients were incorrect and investors were harmed.  We are continuing our efforts to stop these violations and return money to harmed investors as quickly as possible."

The SEC's orders find that American Portfolios and PPS violated the antifraud and compliance provisions of federal securities laws, and that Passaretti caused PPS's violations. Without admitting or denying the findings, American Portfolios, PPS, and Passaretti consented to cease-and-desist orders, and American Portfolios and PPS consented to censures. American Portfolios agreed to pay $895,353 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest and a civil penalty of $250,000. PPS and Passaretti agreed to pay $631,746 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest and a civil penalty of $75,000. Collectively, the firms and Passaretti will pay more than $1.8 million, which will be distributed to harmed clients through Fair Funds.

American Portfolios and PPS were not eligible to self-report pursuant to the Division of Enforcement's Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative announced in February because the Division contacted them about the disclosure violations before the initiative was announced.

The SEC's investigation was conducted by Vincent T. Hull and John Farinacci of the Asset Management Unit and Richard Hong of the New York Regional Office, with support from Cristina Giangrande, Karen Karakaya, Rachel Lavery, Gerard Sansobrino, and Dawn Blankenship of the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations of the New York Regional Office. The case was supervised by Panayiota K. Bougiamas of the Asset Management Unit.

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