Janus Plays Nice

Tucked away in the folds of the "I'm Sorry" card that Janus Capital Group (NYSE: JNS  ) is writing, you will find a check for $225 million. That hefty sum is the settlement that the fund company has agreed to dispense to bury its past improprieties.

A full $100 million of that will be evenly split between its mutual fund shareholders and civil penalties. The balance -- a sizable $125 million -- is earmarked for fee reductions over the next five years.

I know what you're thinking. It is odd that the company's future investors stand to reap a larger reward than those who were actually wronged by the company's misdeeds. Sometimes, a settlement is just a flimsy cover for marketing.

It's like repulsing your party guests by jamming your grubby fingers into the celebratory cake only to win them back by rolling out a pinata. That's what this is, really. It's Janus reducing its fees -- a public relations move that would have been warranted anyway if the company wanted to shut the valve of redemptions -- to reward the loyalty of fund owners willing to turn the other cheek. In that regard, it's fitting that the company's mythological namesake has two faces.

Janus will also pay up $1.2 million to the state of Colorado for the sake of investor education. Hey, that sounds like a whole lot of Motley Fool Champion Funds subscriptions.

Other scandalized companies like Alliance Capital (NYSE: AC  ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) have already settled. Sadly, the fact that the industry is under fire and being watched more closely doesn't feel as reassuring as it should. Walking through a metal detector doesn't necessarily invite the notion of tranquility. That's why fund investors are being pressed into researching their investments the same way that those who favor buying individual stocks must put in the due diligence required to succeed in the market.

Janus also reported its quarterly earnings last night. Before a series of charges, the company grew its earnings from $0.17 to $0.19 a share. That's pretty paltry when one considers that rival T. Rowe Price (Nasdaq: TROW  ) saw its earnings nearly double. Malfeasance, apparently, doesn't come cheap. Janus is beaming that it was able to grow its assets by 10% over the past year. Pssst, Janus. The S&P 500 was up 35%.

Still, I wouldn't write the company off. Its funds have exemplary track records in bull markets. Selling the public on a newer, nicer Janus is a tall task, but it's awfully tempting to make your way toward that swinging pinata. Just be sure to know what you're stepping into.

Shannon Zimmerman is watching the unfolding scandal closely and won't likely recommend a tainted fund shop in his Motley Fool Champion Funds. Take a free trial with just one click.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz invests in no-load mutual funds though his core holdings will probably always be individual stocks. He does not own shares in any company mentioned in this story.


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