September 8, 2004
The brokers from Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Smith Barney and other firms are claiming to be advisors, even calling themselves advisors and yet are asking to be exempted from registration.
I believe that the current wirehouse activities fail the exemption test on both counts. 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.
It is OK to give advice to the public, but the SEC should make sure that ALL people giving advice meet the same independent standard.