There is something to be said for being in the right place at the right time. E*Trade Group announced an initiative to partially refund 12b-1 fees to investors using its service last summer, and the firm now has in place a rebate program pertaining to one of the hottest topics in the fund industry.

The head start has allowed the online brokerage to leap ahead of its competitors and stay in front of the SEC's recent proposal to ban directed brokerage arrangements.

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