July 22, 2004
I am concerned about a proposed rule of the SEC that will allow securities brokers to give advice to their customers on investments without clearly disclosing that they have a conflict of interest and are not necessarily acting with the sole interest of the customer in mind.
There is immense pressure today to have the individual take responsibility for his own financial future. Social security is not adequate for retirement and pensions are becoming less common. Often we make our own decisions about where our retirement funds are being invested, and we will gain or lose by our choices. Even social security itself may become "privatized".
The problem is that probably 99% of us do not understand financial markets and investments. This is not just a question of laziness or disinterest, but of capabilities. You in the securities professions have forgotten what it was like to study accounting and finance in college. So few could do well! It is an aptitude most of us do not have! (And this among the subset of adults who go to college).
Consider the trend in the residential real estate market. There brokers represented the seller even though they as often worked with the buyer to find a home. Even though they disclosed this in forms the purchaser was given, it was difficult for the average home purchaser to appreciate the implications and to protect themselves. So today you can work with a professional who is solely responsible to the purchaser.
We need a system that makes it easy for the customer to get impartial advice if this move toward privatization is to succeed.
Please make sure that brokers -- professionals who earn their fees through sales commissions and who receive incentive payments from potential investees -- don't confuse their customers by implying that they are impartial investment advisors or financial planners. Insure there is a very clear distinction between the professions.
Mary Frances Jetton, CPA