September 15, 2010
As an Investment Advisor Representative, I'm probably one of the few that believes there should not be a uniform fiduciary standard, but instead a requirement by those acting in a sales capacity to disclose this fact to investors.
The reason I feel this way is that in my experience in my field some investors do not want advice but just want to purchase financial products such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds and insurance products on a transactional basis and construct their own portfolio based on their own experience and research, regardless if that research is necessarily in their best interest.
If a there is a uniform fiduciary standard, how will initial public offerings (IPOs) be offered to the public? For example, what if in the course of a business conversation it is discovered that a person wishing to purchase an IPO has a family and no life insurance or disability insurance, and no 401k/IRA/annuity for his/her retirement. If a professional is required to act in a fiduciary capacity, I think it's safe to say that the aforementioned person should NOT be purchasing an IPO because there are other aspects of his/her portfolio that need to be taken care of before making a potentially risky purchase such as an IPO. However, if that person wants to enact such a transaction, why shouldn't they be allowed to do so through a financial professional? The government can't and shouldn't mandate that a person make sound decisions.
If the above transaction goes through and the professional has a fiduciary duty instead of a suitability requirement and the decision turns out to be a bad one, that investor will be able to sue or take that professional into arbitration because of the investors bad decision.
Now if the said professional only has to prove that the IPO was a suitable purchase, he has none of that liability.
As I mentioned in my opening paragraph investors should be informed that a financial services representative may not necessarily be acting in their best interest, whereas another one, like an Investment Advisor Representive, must act in their best interest. But again, an investor should not be prevented from making a questionable purchase by government mandate.
Simply do what was done when the Broker Dealer Exemption Rule was in effect and put it on clients' statements. Only this time put it toward the front of the statement in bold red print, not hidden in the last page of the statement in small print like it was when the Broker Dealer Exemption Rule was in effect. Also, make the financial representative that does not have the fiduciary requirement tell the investor this verbally, as well as get a signed waiver showing that the investor was told but still wants to proceed with the transaction that while suitable, probably is not the best choice to make.
Also, have the SEC or FINRA embark on an education campaign so the public is able to make the distinction. If after all of this someone gets confused, the debacle they are in is of their own making.