May 23, 2000
Jonathan Katz, Secretary
Securities and Exchange Commission
450 Fifth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20549-0609
Re: Release Nos. 34-42099 and IA-1845; File No. 7-25-99; Certain Broker Dealers Deemed Not To Be Investment Advisers
Dear Mr. Levitt:
It is with a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong for both the public and the investment advisory community, I strongly urge you to oppose the above proposed Rule. The so called "Merrill Lynch Rule" would establish a two-tiered, double disclosure standard for those of us purporting to seek the trust and confidence of our clients. As a financial advisor associate since 1978 and licensed with the NASD since 1969 (my firm was established in 1934 and we never have spent a day in court in 66 years) and as a past officer, including Ethics Director, for our local Financial Planning Chapter, we out in the "trenches" struggle daily how to educate the public about the current regulatory framework is meant to protect them, and where it falls short. I believe my clients have the correct perception that, as their financial advisor, I always try and act in their best interest first and foremost and I hope I can continue to live up to their trust.
This perception of trust is built and encouraged by individual advisors as well as the large financial services companies. Very few clients understand that the Registered Investment Advisory regulations are the only ones which require advisors to act as a fiduciary for their clients. If the SEC allows large financial services firms to avoid having to follow the RIA regulations, yet allow them to present themselves as objective fee advisors, I believe the general public will be misled and certainly not be protected by the very federal agency which was created for their protection. What an irony if this were to come true.
My father's values and ethics have become even more dear to me as I have matured and as a grandfather, become a role model for my grandchildren. My father used to say "if it looks like a duck, walks and talks like a duck, it must be a ...." It wasn't hard for me to realize early on, that as an advisor, I had a fiduciary responsibility beyond my fathers basic philosophy of "if you take care of your clients, your pocketbook takes care of itself." These fiduciary rules and regulations are well spelled out by your agency and I can easily understand why some of larger firms would not like to follow a them.
Only if the SEC reserves for itself the authority to regulate and if necessary, crack down on advisors and companies who present themselves as objective advisors, and then do not act as fiduciaries, will the general public be protected.
There are those who can better go through the chapter and verse on all of discrepancies of disclosure, advertising, testimonials, ADV's etc....but I'm sure you are very aware of them.
As my father would say "either you take care of your clients (the public) or you don't".
Russell W. Ketron, CFP
170l Novato Blvd. Suite 204
Novato, CA 94947
Past President of (San Francisco) North Bay IAFP & ICFP (FPA)
Investment Advisory Associate, Registered Principal
Protected Investors of America