August 6, 2010
As a long time Regeistered Representative and previously a Branch Manager I am struggling to understand why and how the proposed legal fiduciary standard is in the best interest of all participants to financial transactions.At face value it seems appropriate that financial representatives should "act in the best interest of the customer without regard to the financial or other interest of the broker,dealer, or investment advisor providing the service". I feel that I currently do as do my associates. With that said I am confused by the lack of clarity through lack of definition in what exactly this means. There does not seem to be any definition as to what the rules for compliance with a legal "best interest" are. As an investment professional this puts me in a very difficult position because I feel as though I may be in a positon for never ending lawsuits. These thoughts occur to me:
1) Is the "best" the cheapest product recommended?
2) The "best" premium relative to the benefit of the product?
3) The product with the "best" historic underwtiting and service standards?
4) Is it the one with the "best" rating?
The fiduciary standard in essence adds a vague legal liability standard that looks back(possibly after many years) and is enforced after the fact by the SEC or trial lawyers who have 20/20 vision in hindsight.
As Branch Manager for 22 years I was also my office's Compliance Officer. We worked diligently at maintaining an excellent record during those years and were fortunate enough to be able to do so. In spite of our efforts the oversight of the industry became more and more difficult to administer. Ultimately we had to hire an additional full-time person to fill the Compliance Officer position. This is reflective of the fact that compliance costs in terms of finances and time are high and continuing to rise. Those costs will certainly be felt by the ultimate consumer.
For each of the licenses I hold I need to meet certain continuing education, fee and audit requirements. My broker/dealer requires an annual audit and the state of Ohio audits my investment advisory business every 2 years.With all its uncertainties this additional layer of oversight seems to be unreasonable and not genuinely beneficial to the buying public.