Some mutual funds are dropping Class B shares, which have been linked to unethical sales practices. B shares are sold by funds that charge sales commissions, or "loads," as alternatives to A shares, which have up-tront sales charges of as much as 5.75%. B shares carry no load when purchased but impose an annual fee, known as a 12b-l fee--typically l%-and a "back-end" load if you sell them in less than five to eight years. After that time, they convert to A shares. Some brokers have sold B shares by claiming that they have no load, when those investors would have done better buying A shares. A shares also offer volume discounts. Franklin Templeton already has dropped B shares, and other fund groups are expected to follow.
Burton J. Greenwald, founder and president, B.J. Greenwald Associates, mutual fund consultants, Philadelphia.