(Bloomberg) -- First Eagle Investment Management and FEF Distributors agreed to pay almost $40 million to settle SEC claims that they improperly used mutual-fund assets to pay for the marketing and distribution of fund shares.

First Eagle fund managers dipped into shareholder money to pay brokers that sell its product to new investors, the SEC said Monday in a statement announcing settlement of its administrative case. The payments are acceptable only if they’re part of a set plan, known as a 12b-1, approved by a fund’s board. The case is the first under an SEC initiative to protect fund shareholders.

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