September 12, 2004
The fact that a person's primary role is as a seller (broker) of stocks, bonds, and other investments should not excuse him/her from the duties imposed on other people who truly give financial advice just because his/her method of calculating the fee is from sales commissions, markups, markdowns, or asset management fees rather than an explicit fee for the advice. In fact, most of the investment advisors I am familiar with get paid by a fee based on assets under management. The investing public may realize that a stock broker is a salesman, but they must be reminded that the advice they get may be for the purpose of making a sale.
There are too few qualification rules for investment advisors as it is, and exempting a whole class of salespeople from the minimal requirements of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 goes the wrong way. Anyone who holds him/herself out as an investment advisor should play by the same set of rules. Even the exemption that lawyers who give financial advice have carved out for themselves should be revisited; just because a person knows law doesn't mean s/he knows anything about investments.
I've been an investor for 30 years. I've seen a lot of changes over the years. There was a time when banks were banks, brokers were brokers, and life insurance people sold life insurance. Now everyone is a financial advisor. While I value the competition these changes have created, I don't think there should be special rules for one class of these people.
Jerome D. Miller
19300 Erin Tree Court
Gaithersburg, MD 20879