August 26, 2004
Comment on File No. S7-25-99
SEC Broker-Dealer Rule Exemption
I urge the SEC to WITHDRAW, not amend, this rule proposal. We believe the rule is harmful to consumers by creating two different standards of conduct for persons offering financial planning services: a higher fiduciary standard for registered investment advisers and a lower one under NASD suitability rules.
Allowing brokers to infer that they have a fiduciary relationship to a client, when in fact they do not, is the kind of thinking that has caused so many scandals in our profession and undermines public confidence in financial advisors. I witnessed a good example of this at a professional lunch last week. I sat next to a sales representative from a large broker-dealer. When I introduced her to another attendee, the attendee asked, so you are a stockbroker. Her reply, no, I am a financial advisor. If she puts herself out as a financial advisor, she should be subject to the same fiduciary standards as a financial planner not the lesser ones for brokers.
Those of us who accept fiduciary responsiblity and act as agents of our clients ought to be clearly differentiated from salespeople who are beholden to a wirehouse or other financial institution. The rule also exempts, in effect, brokers from being required to disclose conflicts of interest in connection with the offer of financial planning services.