September 9, 2004
I urge you withdraw rather than modify the rule exempting broker-dealers from the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 when offering fee-based investment programs.
Having a different standard or policy for two distinct groups offering the same service does not provide the investing consumer adequate protection. The fee-based programs offered by broker-dealers clearly fall within the fiduciary standards of the 1940 Act and all who participate must be doing so under the same regulatory requirements.
The firms seeking the exemption have placed investment advice at the heart of the great majority of their customer relationsgips and both the firms and their registered representatives are compensated in ways that clearly fall into the arena of investment advisory activities that demand adhereing to fiduciary standards.
I respectfully submit that these firms should be required to register as Registered Investment Advisers and their representatives register as Investment Advisor Representatives under the 1940 Act without delay.
Rescind the Merrill Lynch Rule in its entirety.