August 30, 2004
As a registered investment adviser who has found, to her extreme disapointment, that broker abuse is rampant in small-town USA, I have seen first-hand the results of such misrepresentations on the lives of individual investors. There is no such thing as separating incidental business from the perception of retail investors that their supposed investment adviser is held to the same level of fiduciary standards. Compliance cost is no justification for not holding those who represent themselves as financial advisers to the same level of accountability. The reputation of the financial services industry has been severely damaged by the fact that brokers have not been held accountable until state regulators stepped up action in a very public way. The SEC should be the body at the forefront of any steps to restore confidence and a primary way to do so is to give the public either hard distinctions as to what a broker is not and bar brokers use of the term financial adviser without registration as such or require that all financial advisers meet the same level of regulatory responsiblity that truly puts the individual investors interests above their own. Not doing so just weakens us all.