September 9, 2004
Regarding the Merrill Lynch Rule, so called.....
The brokers at wirehouses are portraying themselves to be financial advisors. They tout their services as being in the best interest of the client. Their titles are Financial Consultants and Financial Counselors and similar names. They sound highly qualified, yet many of them do not even have a CFP designation.
The general public is falling for it. The brokers should not be exempt from following the same rules and receiving the same regulatory oversight as independent advisors. The products that these brokers are foisting on the general public in their roles as trusted financial counselors are a travesty.
I am a fee-only advisor, a member of NAPFA, and a fiduciary. Prospects come into our office and tell us the horror stories about what has happened to them with prior Financial Counselors at brokerage firms. Like I said, it is a travesty.
For the sake of the consumer, please do not exempt wire house brokers from regulatory oversight. They need to jump through the same hoops as independent advisors, and be subjected to the same set of rules.
Need an example of a travesty? How about selling a 10,000 variable annuity to an 87-year-old widow with 13,000 to her name. The surrender period was longer than her life expectancy. She did not pay any income taxes to begin with. Why did she need a tax-deferred product? This is all too typical.