August 30, 2004
Please WITHDRAW, not amend, this rule proposal. This rule is clearly harmful to the majority of consumers and has the ill-conceived effect of 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. The average American is not going to understand that a Registered Investment Advisor has a fiduciary standard in its dealings with the consumer while the big wirehouses have only a duty to themselves to make as much money as possible through selling poor investment choices. Also frightening is that this rule also exempts, in effect, brokers from being required to disclose conflicts of interest in connection with the offer of financial planning services.
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.
Those of us who accept fiduciary responsibility and act as agents of our clients ought to be clearly differentiated from salespeople who are beholden to a wirehouse or other financial institution.