Mutual fund investors who are waiting for settlement payments from investment firms are growing impatient because cash payments are, for the most part, being held back until next year, The Orange County Register reports. Nearly two dozen firms, including Alliance Capital Management, which shelled out $250 million in fines and restitution to settle charges with regulators, are taking their time with the complex process of calculating payments owed to thousands of individual investors. The process of allotting $2.3 billion in settlements paid by leading mutual fund companies to an army of shareholders poses an organizational nightmare that is expected to take months to resolve. Mercer Bullard, a securities law expert who is frequently quoted in the press, said investors will be lucky if they see any settlement money by Christmas. The reimbursement process must satisfy guidelines established by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which requires that each firm hire a team of auditors to review trades dating back several years. Slightly less than half of all U.S. householders have an average of $10,000 invested in mutual funds, and many of these shareholders are entitled to only a few dollars in compensation. Some experts say the cost of calculating these payments and getting the funds into the hands of these individuals may cost the investment firms more in administrative expenses than many investors realize.