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Since releasing an ambitious working document in December of 2012, the regulator has held roundtables and discussion forums with industry players and investor advocates.Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Provincial securities regulators are nowhere near ruling on the fate of Canada's mutual fund fees, despite spending 16 months studying the industry.

Since releasing an ambitious working document in December of 2012, the regulator has held roundtables and discussion forums with industry players and investor advocates. But even after all that hard work, they seem to be in no-man's land, stuck between doing nothing and taking on the financial institutions.

To spur action, the regulators have put out a request for proposals, looking for independent researchers who can evaluate how sales and trailing commissions influence fund sales, and if fee-based compensation changes the nature of financial advice from commission-based compensation.

The regulators are spinning this as progress, arguing such research advances the review. That's true. It does. But the big question is why this wasn't started months, if not over a year, ago.

A review with hard data will certainly add credence to the regulators' final verdict. No one can deny that. But conducting such research will take time, and we're already nearing the year-and-a-half mark.

The last time the Ontario Securities Commission tried to take on mutual funds and financial advisers, in the 1990s, the process dragged on for years and eventually died out following regime changes at the OSC. The big fear is that history will repeat itself.