August 25, 2010
I urge the SEC to adopt a fiduciary standard for all financial professionals who provide personalized investment advice or who hold themselves out to be financial advisors or financial planners.
This issue is very important to me personally as a CPA Financial Planner, to my firm's clients, and to all current and future consumers of financial services.
Currently, investors are getting similar personalized advice from investment advisors and securities brokers. But the advice is given under two different investor protection standards. The investment advisor, under a fiduciary obligation, must act in the "best interests of the client", while the broker must merely make "suitable" recommendations. While perfectly legitimate under current rules, it simply doesn't pass the smell test to have two different standards for what amounts to the same service. When current rules allow advisors to "change hats" when dealing with the same client in order to operate under a lower standard and lessen their potential liability, it's a symptom that the current system is broken. I can't even imagine the consumer confusion and outrage that would result if in the medical profession there were two different standards for the same medical 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 advisors -- to act in the investor's best interests. It is what investors deserve and what they should be able to expect regardless of who is holding himself/herself out as a professional and providing advice.
I think the SEC must take this opportunity to exercise its authority and get brokers and advisors 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 approach the SEC can take and I strongly encourage you to take the opportunity to provide this simple, meaningful and significant investor protection.