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NEWSLETTERS & ALERTS
Morgan Stanley Pays $5Mn for Overcharging ‘Wrap Fee’ Clients
[Image: Morgan Stanley Signage in Times Square, NYC]
by Howard Haykin
WHAT WENT WRONG. Morgan Stanley for years had been a sponsor of wrap fee programs that provide a bundle of investment advisory and trade execution services to clients, all for a single asset-based “wrap fee.” And, while Morgan Stanley’s marketing materials and client agreements pointed out that extra charges could be imposed for things like brokerage commissions on trades not executed through Morgan Stanley, clients were told otherwise – that they would not incur additional expenses. EXCEPT THEY WERE.
For nearly 5 years, many clients were charged millions in extra transaction-based charges. These charges arose because some wrap managers directed most, and sometimes all, client trades to third-party broker-dealers for execution (i.e., away from Morgan Stanley). And because the added transactional costs were embedded into the price of the securities, and not separately disclosed to clients, the charges were not visible to them.
Interestingly, Morgan Stanley knew whenever wrap managers executed trades away from the firm and how much those undisclosed transaction-based costs were. It's all there, in black and white, on Morgan Stanley's records of historical transactions for wrap fee clients.