September 8, 2004
The wirehouse firms should be required to register as Registered Investment Advisers under the 1940 Act, immediately and without qualification.
Please look at their marketing materials and their websites: they are marketing their salespeople as trusted advisors and counselors and other designations that are designed to inspire trust in their advice.
The current wirehouse activities fail the exemption test: a careful interpetation of the wording of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 cannot help but conclude that the larger wirehouse organizations have placed investment advice at the heart of the great majority of their customer relationships, and that many of their brokers-cum-counselors are compensated in ways that clearly fall into the area where brokerage activities end and investment advisory activities begin.
For these reasons, I believe that the SEC should withdraw its rule exempting broker-dealers from the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 when offering fee-based brokerage programs.