June 30, 2009
My name is Robert V. Bolen, CFP, CFA. I own an SEC-registered investment adviser and I am a member of the Financial Planning Association.
I am opposed to the requirement of a surprise audit in the proposed amendments to the custody rule. This proposal seems to be a misdirected reaction to the Madoff Ponzi scheme rather then an effective tool to prevent such schemes in the future.
We are a relatively small independent RIA firm. Client assets are custodied at well known third party custodians such as Fidelity Investments and Schwab Institutional. Clients receive statements monthly from their custodians. Although we do debit management fees from many accounts, the custodians have strict rules in place that prevent large or frequent debits. The Ponzi schemes uncovered by the SEC had nothing to do with fees deducted by investment advisers. As far as I am aware, there have been no systemic problems in the fee debit area. An audit is unnecessary, costly and burdensome, particularly for small, independent investment advisers such as my firm.
The new surprise audit requirement will add additional costs of both time and money to my business. My revenue is down at present (AUM model) due to market declines. The last thing I need is a new requirement that hurts my bottom line and doesnít really help clients.
In order to enhance consumer protection, I would support Congress appropriating additional resources to the SEC to hire and train additional examination staff to increase the regular audit cycle of investment advisers. That seems like a much more prudent and reasoned response to protecting consumers.
Please consider carefully your next steps and donít invoke additional regulatory costs with limited benefits to consumers.
Robert V. Bolen, CFP, CFA