Financial Regulatory Forum

SNAP ANALYSIS – US court fund adviser ruling leaves firms with leeway on fees

BOSTON, March 30 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision¬† in a closely watched mutual fund case gives investors leeway to challenge fees they consider excessive, but falls short of being a total loss for the $11.5 trillion industry.

The court rejected a lower-court ruling that made it harder for individual shareholders to sue an investment advisory firm for excessive fees.

While the decision still gives fund firms considerable freedom to assess fees — and set fees higher than rivals might charge — it might prove problematic if an adviser charges dramatically higher fees for retail customers than for larger, institutional investors.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote that to face liability, “an investment adviser must charge a fee that is so disproportionately large that it bears no reasonable relationship to the services rendered and could not have been the product of arm’s-length bargaining.”

The case of Jones vs. Harris Associates LP was eagerly anticipated within the fund industry.

FACTBOX – Business cases before US Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington, September 29, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young   (UNITED STATES POLITICS CRIME LAW)The U.S. Supreme Court opened its term on Monday, with new Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Following are some of the important cases business cases that will be decided:

* Whether the long-standing limits on corporate spending in U.S. political campaigns violated the free-speech rights of businesses.