July 30, 2010
I strongly object to the SEC imposing a new fiduciary standard on advisors, and that this process better protects investors than the current standard.
The current suitability standard not only protects the investor by providing products and advice consistent with CURRENT circumstances, it also imposes on the advisor a more thorough process of review to determine the most suitable course of action.
The imposition of a fiduciary standard - one which looks back to enforce these guidelines retroactively is a disaster in the making. Such retroactivity demands the accuracy of an unimpeachable memory, the hisotory for which is often tainted by the passage of time and circumstance. It further lends itself to the selectiveness of said memory, in order to justify or corroborate obscure facts and details, the nature of which may, by default, favor one party over another inappropriately.
The Suitability Standard currently in practice is more than sufficient in these circumstances, as it currently requires a process focused on an investor's then-current circumstances, for which the process evolves accordingly, and through ongoing and frequent FINRA and broker-dealer audits and compliance processes, provides the most comprehensive means of providing up-to-date guidance.
To impose such a stricter standard as a fiduciary responsibility goes beyond the boundaries of this relationship. Such action will force me to consider the following:
Will moving to a fee-only model result in better, unbiased advice?
Will I be forced to a fee only model to protect myself from liability?
Can my clients afford to pay up front fees or will they be willing to?
Will the liabilities drive up my errors and omissions coverage and costs?
Will you stay in the business if liabilities become too great?
Should these new changes be adopted, it will force me to seriously consider abandoning this aspect of my practice, thus putting me in the unenviable position of inviting a competitor who might otherwise gain control of my client. Having worked long and hard to earn my clients' trust, the impact to my practice would alsoi affect my ability to grow my business, and could affect the work and efforts already invested in these client relationships.