August 1, 2010
There CAN BE (and IS) ONE STANDARD - just do NOT call it a "Fiduciary Standard." "Fiduciary" has a specific LEGAL definition - check with ANY attorney. To use that term would only add confusion to the profession. We do NOT want financial services professionals "acting for" their clients UNLESS specifically contracted to do so. Acting with clients' BEST INTERESTS in mind is a GIVEN for ALL TRUE professionals.
ALL financial services professionals worthy of the name DO put clients' interests FIRST (period). To suggest otherwise is simply not understanding the VAST MAJORITY of practitioners. We ought NOT to legislate to the LOWEST common denominator.
Capital raising which is a VITAL function of the brokerage community will grind to a HALT - an UNintended consequence of a "fiduciary" standard. RISK can NOT be taken out of our capital markets. Those who can NOT tolerate RISK do NOT belong in the capital markets.
Many of us who are paying attention and do not trust the system to "get it right" are already ceasing IPO participation. Sorry, can't help corporate America raise capital and "take on the risk" on behalf of clients. Suitability IS the ONLY operative standard in a brokerage context.
Where the problem truly lies is in the FAILURE of legislators to truly understand that BROKERAGE and FINANCIAL PLANNING are NOT synonymous. Both are financial services, but they are SEPARATE and DISTINCT functions.
Until and unless CLARITY around this is accomplished the SEMANTICS of a "Single Fiduciary Standard" as a politically correct and NAIVE approach will gain traction. Those who truly understand DISTINCTIONS and are VERY clear on the WORTHY function CAPITAL RAISING serves in the financial services industry are NOT fooled by those who naively and foolishly ATTEMPT to vilify colleagues who UNDERSTAND the nuances and the practicalities of TRULY practicing in the FULL RANGE of the FINANCIAL SERVICES profession.
Those with TUNNEL VISION and those who ASSUME the worst of their fellow practitioners are the ONLY ones calling for a "Single Fiduciary Standard." Their INABILITY to see and understand the BROADER CONTEXT and IMPLICATIONS of such FOOLISHNESS makes me VERY sad.
Where are the TRUE LEADERS in this profession, anyway?