August 25, 2010
I am writing to you on behalf of my clients who represent a broad cross section of the American Public and urging you to take clear, bold action and implement a strong fiduciary standard for all financial advice - regardless of who is giving the advice.
The belief that "disclosure" is enough to ensure the general public makes informed decisions is flawed. For all the same ethical and logical reason that CPA's and Attorney's must adhere to a strong fiduciary standard all financial advisors - regardless of how they are compensated or affiliated should be held to the same standard. The general public deserves this level of professionalism.
This issue is very important to me as a practitioner, to my clients, and to all investors.
I urge the SEC to adopt a fiduciary standard for all financial professionals who provide personalized investment advice.
Currently, investors may be getting personalized advice from an investment adviser or a securities broker. But the advice is given under two different investor protection standards. The investment adviser, under a fiduciary obligation, is acting in the best interests of the client, while the broker must simply be making suitable recommendations. While perfectly legitimate under current rules, it simply doesnt make sense to have two different standards for what amounts to the same service.
Investors deserve a common standard and they should not be left to guess what kind of protection they are being afforded. The standard for providing investment advice should be the same for brokers and advisers: to act in the investors best interests. It is what investors deserve and what they should be able to expect.
I understand that Congress has protected commission-based compensation and made other provision for allowing existing business models to continue, consistent with putting investors interests first. With those concerns addressed, I think the SEC must take this opportunity to exercise its authority and get brokers and advisers on the same page when it comes to providing advice.
Requiring everyone who provides personalized investment advice to act in the investors best interests will help restore the faith and confidence in our markets and financial professionals that is so desperately needed. This is the most common sense consumer initiative the SEC can take and I strongly encourage you to take the opportunity to provide this simple, meaningful investor protection.
Chuck Bowes, CFP