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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Fund Firms Leak Account Numbers

by: Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

Be prepared, the recent discoveries that ChoicePoint, LexisNexis and others have released consumer information have alerted investigative to a new potential goldmine of stories. Today Wall Street's paper of record follows that lead and calls out eight fund firms for placing sensitive data on the Web.

Interestingly, the info was posted on the SEC Web as a part of regular disclosures. Indeed, the disclosure of personal data is mandated in the Statement of Additional Information for shareholders owning more than 5 percent of a fund's shares.

Some shareholders are surprised to discover what information is being shared about them. The lede for the paper is the case of Lois Hatten. The paper reports that the 60-year-old truck driver's widow discovered her IRA number on the Web along with her name, home address and approximate holdings in two mutual funds at Armada. Hatten, as unlikely as it may seem, owns 7 percent of the class H shares issued by the two funds despite holding just $10,000 worth of shares.

Armada Funds, Pimco, Dreyfus, Columbia Funds, Nuveen Investments, First American Funds, AmSouth, and the CNI Charter fund were all groups that the paper claims released information on the SEC web site.

Armada's CCO Kathleen Barr told the paper that the account numbers of the effected shareholders have been changed. "This is a big problem industrywide," she added.

All counted the Journal found 18 shareholders whose account numbers were disclosed along with their names and addresses.

To fund industry insiders that number may seem small, but the story still hit page one.

The paper also rolls out private investigator Robert Douglas and consultant at PrivacyToday.com to make the quote that "realistically and without too much difficulty an unscrupulous person could steal that money."  

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