August 14, 2010
While I applaud the undertaking that is being done under the terms of the Dodd Frank Act I think that the efforts are misplaced.
Imposing one standard of care does little to ensure that the public is protected. Imposing a fiduciary standard on all advisors, which is a standard using hindsight seems less protective than one in which rules are in place. Rules of Engagement are used in the military and they act as means to protect civilians, much in the way that disclosure and the rules based operation of FINRA does.
From what I have read the genesis of this act may be in the faulty RAND Study which determined that the public is confused about the various rules and whom they may "trust".
Being held to a Fiduciary standard does not ensure trust, just look at the case of NY Times writer Ron Lieber's advisor who was not only a member of NAPFA but on its Board of Directors and he stole something like 8 million dollars. Clearly the fiduciary standards did little to protect those unfortunate clients.
I had read on here a comment by a Patricia Potts that made sense, namely start regulatiing titles, avoid dual registration and really define what financial planning is. I appreciated her insights that so much of what people call financial planning is simply common sense and high school mathematics.
Further in the recent Financial Planning magazine there was an article that suggested the consmer may well have a different idea of what "in the client's best interest" is versus that of the legal profession.
This is a link if that is permitted.
In conclusion, I have to say that operationally adopting a fiduciary standard on all advisors most likely would create more problems than it would solve, disenfranchise some of the smaller investors, possibly result in more proacted suits and serve special interest groups.