By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - Bank of America Corp <BAC.N> and Raymond James Financial Inc <RJF.N> will pay roughly $12 million in restitution to customers who incurred excessive fees on investments meant to help their children afford college, a U.S. regulator said on Wednesday.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said Bank of America's Merrill Lynch unit will pay at least $4 million and two Raymond James units will pay $8.03 million, after failing to ensure that financial advisers properly took fees into account when recommending investments in so-called 529 savings plans.
Such plans are tax-advantaged municipal securities designed to encourage saving for education, and sponsored by U.S. states, state agencies and educational institutions.
FINRA said the supervisory failures caused Merrill and Raymond James customers, especially those with young children many years away from college, to incur higher fees than they should have.
According to the regulator, many customers who invested in Class C shares, which carry no upfront sales charges but higher annual fees, would have been better off investing in Class A shares that carry upfront sales charges but lower annual fees.
The failures allegedly occurred from 2011 and 2015 at Merrill, and from January 2008 to March 2017 at Raymond James.
None of the units admitted or denied wrongdoing, and FINRA said they received credit for "extraordinary cooperation" with the regulator.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)