September 13, 2004
I urge you to rescind the Merrill Lynch Rule for the sake of consumers.
Consumers do not have the foggiest idea who to trust or where to go for professional, objective, fiduciary advice. Wirehouses train brokers to sell their products. There is nothing wrong with that. Their brokers salespeople are some of the highest paid salespeople on this planet today. There is nothing wrong with that. The wirehouse industrys bottomless deep pocket advertising casts these salespeople to the public as individuals they can go to for professional, objective, trained, help. That is wrong. The poor consumer is not aware that he/she is simply being sucked up into a production machine designed to profit the broker dealer and reward the salesperson with commissions and production bonuses along with trips and free trinkets. The consumer does not have any idea how this sales/production machine works or that he/she is being sucked up into it. It is way past time for the SEC to help protect the consumer by rescinding this rule. The wirehouse industry needs to disclose any and all conflicts of interest -- exactly the way independent investment advisers and fee-only, fiduciary, independent financial planners disclose any and all conflicts of interest along with the educational standards and codes of ethics we voluntarily subscribe to. As I look at this disgusting big picture, I see the SEC essentially protecting the current brokerage industrys fleecing of America by permitting this Merrill Lynch Rule to stand as long as it has.
I urge you, the SEC, to rescind not modify this rule exempting broker-dealers from the Investment Advisors Act of 1940 for the sake of the consumers and taxpayers of America.
Thank you for your attention to this critically important issue directly affecting Americans today.
John E. Bergland, Jr., M.Div., CFP
NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor