July 30, 2010
I wanted to express concern over the consideration to change from a Suitability Standard of compliance to a Fiduciary Standard of Compliance.
I am OPPOSED to this change as it relates to Registered Representatives, Investment Advisor Representatives, and Broker-Dealers.
There is a balance between looking out for the consumer and over-regulation. My concern is that changing the standard will push that balance way too far in one direction and create more problems, issues, and negative effects than any value the fiduciary standard may be perceived to have.
Already, the heightened focus, and elevated standards of using a good Suitability Standard, provide adequate consumer protection. Yet, most advisors will cite Compliance and Suitability as an already considerable burden on operations. Though I feel it is appropriate and necessary to have such a standard, it should not be over-burdensome, unreasonable in it's expectation, nor open-ended in potential protection liability. Changing to a Fiduciary Standard will likely make it all of those things.
As a firm, we spend more time on Suitability and Compliance than any other activity. The required time, energy, paperwork, study time, class requirements, testing, cost of operations, cost of liability, and general overhead are pushing the limits of viability to actually continue to conduct business efficiently.
Investment Advice and assistance is already a challenging occupation. Additional over-burdensome standards of care will not serve to improve the advice consumers receive, the performance of their investments, or the service they receive in any way but negatively. In fact, devoting more time to "covering our tails" will only diminish what we can do for consumers instead of working to protect ourselves from unreasonable over-regulation.
The heavy majority of Investment Professionals already work in the "best interest" of their clients. Current standards allow adequate recourse against those that fail to do so. Implementing such a vague, "look-back" type standard (as the fiduciary standard) will only hurt the good advisors in their ability to serve the public.
I feel I do a good job for my clients - and, I have their interests foremost in my practice. Changing this standard will open up opportunities for liability exposure that will likely change the way I will work with my clients - but, not in a favorable way. Because it will only take "one bade apple" who is "unhappy" (even if unmerited) to halt us in our tracks to deal with the potential fall out of a "look-back", arm-chair-quarterback trial attorney, I'll likely be giving more "CYA" advice than good advice. I'll be compliant - but, my clients will not be as well served, I am afraid...
The current standards are good - and adequate. For years, we have been focusing on improving, enhancing, and complying with ever stiffer standards. Our workload has increased, our paperwork has increased - our pay has not - and, our ability to conduct business has been diminished. Simply maintain the current standards and use the current laws and regulations to address the significant minority of representatives that are not serving the public adequately. Over-regulation is a reality and this Fiduciary Standard has all the earmarks of being such. Even more so - it appears to be a stricter standard - yet poorly, and vaguely, defined. It will have minimal returns and value - yet carry a heavy price tag that is unnecessary.
Please, do NOT move to a Fiduciary Standard.