July 9, 2009
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to submit comments with respect to the recently proposed rule requiring advisory firms that custody client assets to hire an independent public accountant to perform annual unannounced audits of the firmís customersí assets.
I understand the need to try to make improvements to prevent things like Madoff and Stanford from happening, but donít believe this rule (if I understand it correctly) is the right course of action. In searching for the needle in the haystack, this rule proposes to burn all of the hay to make sure the needle is found. Every firm would be expected to pay an additional $10,000-$25,000 per year for this additional audit. Small firms like ours would also be harmed with the burden on our small staff this audit would pose.
If a rule like this is to be pursued, it should have specific exemptions for firms that already have an outside accountant performing an annual audit (we are a FINRA member and as such already are audited), it should exempt firms that do not generate their own performance reports and statements (we utilize a clearing firm for these services), it should exempt a firm that has an outside entity facilitating billing and collecting customer fees (we contract with our clearing firm for this service). Obviously a firm like ours would have the ability to perpetrate the type of fraud Mr. Madoff did or that Mr. Stanford appears to have possibly done.
I believe in strong regulation. I believe in protecting customers. And I also believe in regulation that makes sense and accomplishes the desired intent without unnecessary collateral damage.
Brian E. Smith
President and CEO
RiverStone Wealth Management, Inc.