Special charges which fund companies themselves pay intermediaries rather than passing them on to investors are becoming an accepted, although unwelcome, cost of doing business. The payments from mutual fund companies' own profits -- sometimes under so-called "defensive" 12b-1 plans -- are supplementing commissions and traditional Rule 12b-1 fees which investors pay. The need to make extra payments has grown as distribution through intermediaries has increased in importance and traditional sales charges have decreased on average, according to fund industry executives, lawyers and consultants.

Fidelity Investments now is in the midst of obtaining approval from shareholders for making such special payments. On Nov. 16, Fidelity filed a proxy statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for three of its funds -- Growth Company, Emerging Growth and New Millennium -- in which it asked shareholders to approve a defensive 12b-1 plan.

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