July 1, 2009
Concerning File No. S7-09-09:
I understand the SEC motivation to increase the level of security over client funds given the recent abuse by a few bad high profile advisors. I appreciate the fact that you are accepting comments from professionals.
As both a partner in a CPA firm and an owner of a RIA practive, I have a few short comments to submit.
For small advisory RIA firms whose only custody of client assets is the collection of advisory fees, I believe the audit requirement and anticipated cost of $8,100 is too heavy of a burden. If we are already using a qualified custodian we are already subject to some level of scrutiny. It would be far more cost effective (and possibly regulatory effective) to have the chief compliance officer submit an annual certification to our custodian or the SEC.
We already have a contract stipulating our agreed upon fees and the client receives a quartely invoice indicating a detail calculation of these fees. The monthly statement from the custodian indicates all transactions on the account. It is possible that some clients don't take the time to review all thier statements (how far do we need to go to protect the consumer?), but I do recieve calls from new clients asking questions, so I know many are watching thier accounts.
As a CPA, my perspective is that the requirement to use only a PCAOB firm would limit the selection of available firms and thus increase the audit cost beyond the $8,100 estimated. In my state of Iowa there are only three registered firms, and in the bordering state of Nebraska there were none on the PCAOB list. Also PCAOB firms tend be larger firms with higher per hour cost.
The SEC has estimated the increase in annual hours for the 9,385 additional advisors to be 179,636, and that the advisors we pay $11,783,898 in cost. The computes to an average cost of $65.60 per professional hour. As a CPA these hourly costs seem substantially understated.