Putnam Ponies Up in Mutual Fund Scandal

Putnam Investments is paying $110 million in fines and restitution in a settlement with securities regulators over its role in the mutual fund trading scandal.

The division of Marsh & McLennan ( MMC) reached a deal Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission and Massachusetts state regulators. In the settlement, Putnam will pay a combination of $55 million in fines and restitution to both regulatory agencies for allowing some of its portfolio managers to market time shares of the firm's own mutual funds.

The Putnam deal comes nearly five months after it became the first mutual fund family to be charged by regulators in the far-reaching investigation of the $7 trillion industry. The SEC had reached a partial settlement with Putnam in November that required the Boston-based firm to institute a number of corporate governance reforms.

Regulators found that several portfolio managers and other employees had engaged in excessive short-term trading of shares in Putnam mutual funds for their own benefit and the firm didn't disclose that activity to its shareholders. The scandal at Putnam led to ouster of a number of high-ranking fund executives, including Lawrence Lasser, the firm's former chief executive.

In part because it was the first mutual fund company to be charged by regulators, Putnam saw some of the heaviest levels of shareholder redemptions last year. Investors have pulled-out nearly $60 billion from the company's mutual funds since the scandal broke.

"This case uncovered a corporate culture that turned a resolute blind eye to the most egregious conduct on the part of its managers," Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin said Thursday.

The fines against Putnam add to the impressive big-dollar settlements regulators have obtained from mutual fund companies, financial services firms and hedge funds. In other major settlements, Bank of America ( BAC) agreed to pay $675 million in penalties, Alliance Capital ( AC) paid $600 million and Sun Life's ( SLF) Massachusetts Financial Services paid $225 million.

In all, the fines and restitution won by regulators in the far-reaching scandal is approaching $2 billion, with many more big-dollar settlements still expected.

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