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SEC's Kickback Probe Extends to Allegiant

The Securities and Exchange Commission is examining whether Allegiant Asset Management accepted kickback payments from its fund administrator to pay for marketing, the investment management firm's parent company, National City, revealed in an SEC filing.

The bank, the nation's ninth largest, said it learned of the investigation on Oct. 11 and that both it and its fund unit are cooperating with the SEC.

It is the third bank to indicate it is being investigated for accepting such payments. Earlier, JPMorgan Chase's One Group Funds and Union Bank of California's HighMark Funds also revealed in filings with the SEC that they, too, are being investigated.

The SEC is looking into whether fund administration companies paid hundreds of millions in kickbacks to 27 mutual fund firms in an attempt to secure their business. A spokeswoman for the Union Bank of California told The Wall Street Journal that the vendor in question in HighMark's case is SEI Investments. SEI acknowledge in a filing over the summer that the SEC was investigating it, but a spokesman declined comment for The Journas.

The SEC's probe into the 27 fund companies is stemming from a $21.4 million settlement with BISYS reached in September for having paid $230 million in kickbacks to investment advisors between 1999 and 2004. As the administrative fees come out of funds' assets, the kickbacks defrauded investors, the SEC said.

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