August 18, 2010
RE: File No: 4-606
Dear Ms. Murphy:
I am a financial planner and Investment Adviser Representative with over 400 client families handling more than $25 million assets under management. In my practice, I have been servicing clients under a fiduciary standard of care for 9 years. I strongly urge you to extend the Advisers Act fiduciary standard of care to all financial professionals who provide personalized investment advice to retail clients.
It is unfair to consumers that the quality of advice they receive from a financial professional is dependent on the professionals registration or title. Its no wonder consumers are confused, and do not know whether their financial professional is looking out for their best interests. I can tell you from my personal experience that adhering to the fiduciary standard of care and putting my clients interests ahead of my own benefits serves my clients and my business well. My clients have an advisor they trust and willing listen to so that they can make informed decisions.
Back in 2005, the SEC ruled that all financial service firms whose primary business is financial planning must become a Registered Investment Adviser. Accordingly, they fall under the SECs standard of care of Fiduciary. There are many independents and broker dealers out there that provide financial advice and do financial planning as a primary business. Shouldnt they be held to the same standard of care as the big firms? Middle income America is more likely to do business with them. There has to be one standard. .
My clients recognize and understand that the advice I give them is in their best interests, because: my loyalty is to them first I will advise them with utmost good faith I will manage any conflicts of interests that may harm them and disclose those conflicts to them I get paid for the advice I give them and the investments I select for them I am required to choose from the best investments available keeping their interests first and I can charge a fee or commissions based on their needs and preferences.
Adhering to the fiduciary standard of care does not limit my ability to provide my clients with appropriate services and products. As a fiduciary, I can choose to operate in a business model that is best for my client. The key is fully disclosing, and avoiding and fairly managing conflicts of interest. Providing financial advice with fiduciary accountability does not reduce services to middle-income Americans. It insures that the services consumers receive will be in their best interests -- not in the best interests of the financial intermediary or his or her company.
I urge you to recommend to Congress that it is necessary and appropriate in the public interest and for the protection of consumers to extend the fiduciary standard to broker-dealers, who provide personalized investment advice, and to initiate a rulemaking to achieve this long overdue consumer reform.
Lawrence W. Hoffman II, CFP®, ChFC®, RFC, CDFA