August 25, 2004
I concur with the position of the FPA, NAPFA, the CFA, and the AARP on supporting the withdrawal of the proposed rule exempting broker-dealers from the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 when offering fee-based brokerage programs.
If there is one lesson that the SEC should have learned about the numerous violations and scandals in the brokerage and mutual fund industry industry over the last 3-4 years, it is that disclosure of hidden fees and conflicts of interest is imperative for the consumer to make an educated choice. That is not currently the situation with broker-dealers--they are not required to disclose fees, yet market themselves as financial advisors--where financial advice is not incidental to the services they perform, as the proposed rule would suggest.
Has the Commission ever seen an adverisement from the likes of Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, etc. that advertises, Come to just for order execution--were really good at that? Of course not--they promote retirement planning, investment advice, college planning, estate planning, and other financial advisory services. It boggles my mind that the Commission can even consider that broker/dealers should be exempt from the IA Act of 1940 under the premise that these services are incidental to what the broker/dealers do. On the contrary, they are at the core of the broker/dealer community promotes as expertise, therefore, they should be held to the same fiduciary standards as Registered Investment Advisors. This is simply common sense--advisors who provide the same services should be held to the same standards.
I am a Registered Investment Advisor with the State of Maryland. I am also a Certified Financial Planning Licensee and a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors and the Financial Planning Association. As a financial fiduciary for my clients who is solely compensated by my clients in a fee-only manner, all that I ask is that the broker/dealer community live up to the same rules for disclosure and fiducuiary obligation that I do. I want a level playing field, not one that is slanted in favor of the institutions who were fined 1.2 billion in 2003 by the SEC and the State of New York for numerous violations.
Christopher N. Brown, MBA, CFPTM