Mutual fund regulators are raising the thorny issue of fee disclosure again.

In a notice to members last week, the National Association of Securities Dealers Inc. reminded fund companies of their obligation to fairly disclose fees.

The regulator also announced it would study the area further.

We are "evaluating the rules that are in place today to see if they need to be amended," said R. Clark Hooper, executive vice president of the NASD's regulation unit.

Fee disclosure has become a hot topic among regulators in recent months.

Regulators and trade groups are pushing for changes amid widespread complaints that fees have become confusing for investors.

But some fund companies and brokerage chiefs said increased scrutiny is unnecessary.

Alan Kennebeck, president and chief executive of Amcore Financial Inc.'s investment arm, said new rules by the Securities and Exchange Commission on simplified prospectuses will help ease investors' confusion.

It may be premature to consider cracking down "until they can evaluate the positive impact that the plain-English prospectus will have," said Mr. Kennebeck of Amcore Investment Group, Rockford, Ill.

NASD rules require that sales material be fair and balanced and contain material information on fees.

In some sales literature, companies are so intent on bragging how a fund avoids certain fees, they fail to adequately disclose the fees they do charge, Ms. Hooper said.

"Without that disclosure, it looks as though there are no fees," she said.

The NASD plans to consider several issues, including the precise location of fee information in sales material and whether additional disclosure should be required.

Ms. Hooper said she did not know how long the review would take.

Fund companies are concerned that the agency could require additional fee information in advertisements, said Rebecca Starling-Klatt, a compliance officer for AIM Management Group, Houston.

"It could get quite lengthy and that information is available in the prospectus," said Ms. Starling-Klatt, who is a member of an Investment Company Institute subcommittee on advertising.

The institute is a Washington-based trade group for the mutual fund industry.

Putting too much information into an advertisement could confuse investors, Ms. Starling-Klatt said.

Nonetheless, Ms. Hooper of the NASD said it was too early to speculate about what the agency may or may not require. "We're not there yet," she said.

Meanwhile, the North American Securities Administrators Association Inc. is urging investors to scrutinize mutual fund fees and other expenses. The umbrella group of state regulators issued a statement on the subject last week.

"We believe that a lot of people are paying more than they know in mutual fund fees," a spokesman said. He added that information on fees should be more uniform and user-friendly, allowing investors to comparison shop.

John Markese, president of the American Association of Individual Investors, Chicago, said disclosure was not the root of the problem.

"For most investors it is difficult to sort through the charges" because fund companies can charge in so many different ways, he said.

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