September 13, 2004
It seems to me that allowing Broker Dealers to act as a financial advisor without being registed as an RIA is in conflict with the purpose of The Act - to protect consumers. The Act requires full disclosure by advisors but because Broker Dealers dont have to be registered, there is no requirement that they disclose to consumers that providing financial advice is purely incidental to their real business. I believe the only way to provide comsumer protection in this case is to require Broker Dealers to be registered and thus required to uphold the fiduciary standards required of RIAs. The alternative would be to not allow Broker Dealers to provide financial advice or to hold themselves out as providing financial planning and/or advice. For the benefit of consumers and the health of the financial planning/advice industry, the Merrill Lynch Rule should be withdrawn.