In an attempt to lure retail investors, FOLIOfn of Vienna, Va., recently began waiving its monthly fee and offering $4 trades. The move is intended to attract investors new to online investing who are not ready to pay monthly fees, according to Steve Wallman, CEO and founder of FOLIOfn and a former commissioner with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

However, industry observers think FOLIOfn may be offering the lower pricing structure to offset a steep decline in assets and volume that has plagued many mutual fund companies and online brokerages due to the market downturn of the past two years.

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