First Command Financial Planning Inc., a company that sold high-fee mutual funds to military officers, has agreed to pay $12 million to settle regulators’ charges that it used misleading sales material to promote the funds.
The Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Association of Securities Dealers, the brokerage industry’s self-policing organization, announced Wednesday the settlements with the company over sales of the so-called “contractual plan” funds. First Command neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing in the accords but did agree to be censured and to refrain from future violations of securities laws.
The NASD also issued a warning to investors on contractual plan mutual funds, which charge commissions that can take 50 percent of the investor’s contributions in the first year. The funds all but disappeared from civilian markets in the 1970s and now are sold almost exclusively to military personnel.
The $12 million that First Command is paying will go to reimburse certain customers and for investor education for the military.
The company, based in Fort Worth, Texas, also agreed to hire an independent consultant approved by the SEC and the NASD to review its sales practices.
Starting in January 1999, the regulators said, First Command violated securities laws by making “materially misleading statements and omissions” to customers regarding its contractual plan funds.
SEC Enforcement Director Stephen Cutler said the educational program was intended to “provide a further check against those practices, and help arm members of our military and their families with the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed investment decisions in the future.”
First Command, which has been active in selling investments to officers, voluntarily terminated its sales of contractual funds earlier this month. An attorney for First Command, Lanny J. Davis, said the allegations concerned only 6 percent of the total number of investment plans sold by First Command since 1999.