Fremont Acknowledges SEC Probe

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, Fremont Investment Advisors said it uncovered past market-timing deals in several of its funds, and acknowledged that it's under investigation by the SEC for trading activities.

Some six weeks ago, Fremont quietly acknowledged that its own internal investigation identified the prior existence of market-timing arrangements "with a few clients that may have been inconsistent with" the policies of Fremont Investment Advisors and the funds themselves, according to a statement posted on the Web site.

The last such arrangement was terminated more than one year ago, according to the statement. Overall, "such trading activity resulted in a net loss" for the alleged market timers, the company said. But for those funds that suffered as a result of such arrangements, Fremont has pledged full restitution.

On Dec. 24, the firm released the names of the funds that were targeted by the spurious trades: the U.S. Micro-Cap and Global fund, as well as its money market fund, experienced purchases and redemptions under those arrangements, while the Large Cap Value fund experienced deposits under those arrangements. All implicated individuals have since left the firm, according to Brian Maddox, a spokesman for Fremont.

In addition, the New York State attorney general and the U.S. attorney in the Northern District of California issued subpoenas to Fremont to supply information about their trading activities.

Fremont operates 13 funds with combined assets of about $3 billion.

Parent company Fremont Investment Advisors announced a year ago that it would sell its funds group, and the sale seems to still be in process despite the firm's increased involvement in the industrywide scandal, says Morningstar analyst Lynn Russell. The company will not release any details, including who the transaction is with or how much the sale is for.

Fremont Investment Advisors announced it would compensate fund shareholders for losses attributable to excessive short-term trading, including advisory fees.

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