July 28, 2009
Regarding File Number S7-09-09
To Whom it May Concern:
I am writing to express my feelings regarding the SEC's proposed changes to the custody rule, Release # IA-2876.
I am an owner of an SEC-Registered advisory firm, a member of the FPA, a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Financial Planner (TM) registrant.
My comments relate to the proposal to subject firms like mine to a "surprise audit" only because I debit my fees out of client accounts. Based on discussion with other professionals in my field, 70-80% of the firms in this industry are "small" in comparison to the larger firms out there. The "small" firms would have a much harder time dealing with the effects of this surprise audit than the larger firms that exist within our industry.
Subjecting my firm to a surprise audit by CPA's would impose an economic hardship upon my firm and potentially cause the following ramifications:
1) Potentially make me increase my fees to new and existing clients
2) Potentially make me increase my minimum client relationshop which is harmful to the overall public at large
3) Take time away from helping my clients and making me spend even more time focusing on the compliance function at my firm
I would hope that the SEC and the Federal Government would be interested in having the general public have more access to professional advice than having less. Imposing burdensome requirements on the small firms out there will no doubt decrease access to financial advice for consumers.
Allowing an RIA firm to debit management fees out of client's account is a personal decision made by the investor/client. It is a convenience for both the RIA firm and the client in lieu of billing and collecting fees through invoicing. Debiting management fees has nothing to do with whether the RIA has true physical custody of the client's assets and potentially putting those assets at risk.
I would hope that the SEC would reconsider this proposal and focus their efforts and funds on higher-risk areas such as RIA firms who truly custody assets, not firms who use a Nationally recognized qualified custodian such as Fidelity, Schwab and TD Ameritrade and simply debit management fees.
There are a host of other "red flags" that the SEC could focus on relative to RIA advisory firms, I will leave it to your better judgement to identify those "red flags". Debiting management fees, in my mind, is not one of those "red flags".
In closing, I am hopeful that our voices will be heard and that this proposal will be adjusted to remove the language relating to debiting management fees.