August 26, 2004
I strongly urge the SEC to withdraw, not amend, this proposed rule.
It has been over four years since this rule was proposed. During that time, representatives of major brokerage firms, operating under the exemption this proposed rule provides, have postured themselves as providing the same type and quality of financial planning and investment advisory services as have those of us who truly are financial planners and investment advisors and who are duly registered and licensed.
The distinction is fundamental to the client/advisor relationship and should not be clouded over... registered investment advisors and their representatives are, by regulatory definition, fiduciaries while brokerage firm representatives who claim to offer similar services under the exemption this rule provides remain agents of their brokerage firms. The investing public deserves to know that there is an important difference in this fundamental relationship and not have it clouded over by institutionalizing a system wherein wolves are permitted, and even encouraged, to don sheeps clothing.
There is nothing the SEC could do by way of amending this rule that would cure this fundamental flaw in the proposed rule. I would think that the Commission would find it persuasive to examine the identities of the parties on either side of this issue. Among those organizations lining up against the proposed rule are the Financial Planning Association of which I am a member, the Consumers Federation of America, and AARP. While one might argue that the FPA is a professional organization with a vested interest, in this instance it is clearly acting in a public advocacy role that cannot be ignored. The other organizations named clearly intend to represent the interests of the consuming public at large. Lining up for the proposed rule is, of course, the brokerage industry. Now, whose motives does the Commission believe to be more pure? Who does the Commission believe is truly advocating for the consumer?
Again, I strongly urge the commission to withdraw this proposed rule as quickly as possible and to recreate an environment where ordinary consumers can more clearly see where the loyalties of differently registered and licensed advisors rest.