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SEC Turns Attention to Performance-Fee Pricing

Three mutual funds have reportedly drawn the Securities and Exchange Commission's ire for alleged violations resembling the accounting sins committed by Bridgeway Capital Management. The SEC is now targeting the Putnam Research, Gartmore U.S. Growth Leaders and the WWW Internet funds for potentially erring in performance-based fee calculations. The fees in question rise and fall in proportion to a fund's ability to beat its benchmark, such as the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

Bridgeway's recent $5.1 million settlement with regulators opened the door for other firms that use performance-based fees to face scrutiny for questionable accounting practices, a new wrinkle to the mutual fund scandal, which has largely focused on improper trading.

The Putnam Research Fund revealed in a February regulatory filing that investigations had raised questions about its performance-based fee calculations. SEC regulators told Gartmore that its practice for determining performance-based fees could be out of compliance. Also, the WWW Internet Fund's manager said the SEC believes shareholders may be entitled to a $500,000 rebate due to incorrect performance fee calculations.