September 16, 2004
I am writing to urge the SEC to WITHDRAW, not amend, the Merrill Rule proposal.
I support the Financial Planning Association FPA in opposing the Rule since its inception. I, along with the FPA, believe the Rule is detrimental to consumer protection by allowing broker-dealers to avoid the blanket fiduciary protections of the Act.. By eliminating special compensation as a critical element in the contractual relationship, the Rule permits stockbrokers to misrepresent their fundamental sales role as one of a fiduciary adviser receiving a fee for advice. Further, it places financial planners at a competitive disadvantage by allowing brokers to market similar programs under less rigorous regulatory standards for disclosure and advertising. The rule also exempts, in effect, brokers from being required to disclose conflicts of interest in connection with the offer of financial planning services and products.
I 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 under the Act and a lower standard of suitability rules under NASD rules.