Sucheta Dalal :AMFI asks for a new vote on trail commission issue
Sucheta Dalal

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AMFI asks for a new vote on trail commission issue  

December 23, 2009

The day after Moneylife exposed how the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) was dilly-dallying for over five months on whether trail commission would continue to be paid to the old distributor even after a customer has walked away, the fund lobby has decided to ask for a new vote on the issue. All chiefs of asset management companies got an email on Tuesday afternoon asking them to vote on three questions—whether the trail commission of a departing customer: a. should be paid to the old distributor; b. should be paid to the new distributor; c: should not be paid at all.


Funds are supposed to vote a simple yes/no to each of the three questions.


It may be recalled that yesterday we had reported on the fact that there is continuing confusion about who gets the trail commission in a mutual fund transaction, where a client has moved away from one distributor to another. The confusion persists to this day, due to the inability of the fund lobby, AMFI, to implement the decision, by vote of hand, of its own members not to pay trail commission to the old distributor.


About five months ago, AMFI formed a committee with representatives from ICICI Prudential and Birla Sun Life to decide on who should be getting the trail commission. The committee argued that that the original trail should be there for life even if the client has shifted. There were major objections to this idea. In principle, trail commission is paid for maintenance of an account, not for acquisition. For acquisition of clients, fund companies were paying upfront commissions. If a distributor was not maintaining the account, there was no reason for him to get paid anymore.


The decision was debated and put to a hand of vote. It appeared that 11 funds voted in favour of the committee’s flawed decision while 17 were against. However, till date, this has not been implemented. Later, there was a lot of pressure on CEOs who voted for trail commission termination, to take back their vote.


Today’s email asks the funds to vote again on the idea. When Moneylife asked one of the CEOs why should AMFI ask its members to vote again on something that was roundly defeated, one of the CEOs replied, “It’s all a farce. I am not sure what AMFI wants to achieve and whether it will be implemented this time.” What is also a mystery is why are some funds so keen to keep paying commissions to the old distributor, which not only seems illogical but patently anti-investor. It is the investors’ money that is being paid out and it’s unjust to pay his money to a distributor he has decided to walk away from. However, this is precisely what some large funds are supporting.
— Debashis Basu


-- Sucheta Dalal