September 7, 2004
I have served as an Registered Investment Advisor since 1987 and, until October 2003, was the CEO of a fee-only comprehensive financial planning and wealth management firm. During the past five years I have also provided securities litigation and arbitration support, serving as an expert witness. I have testified in court and at NASD Arbitration Hearings.
During the past 17 years I have witnessed numerous instances in which individual investors have been misled and swindled out of their hard-earned nest eggs by brokerage firms who advertise, quote our Financial Advisors will evaluate your situation and help you determine which strategies are right for you unquote. Morgan Stanley website.
I recently testified at an NASD hearing on a case involving Ferris Baker Watts, NASD Arbitration Number 02-07173. FBW advertises, quote Since 1900, Ferris, Baker, Watts has maintained a very basic philosophy: focus on the needs of our individual and corporate clients by placing our experience and services at their disposal to help them reach their financial goals unquote FBW website.
In this case, a broker/dealer alleged that he was a Registered Investment Advisor with its attendant fiduciary responsibility. He was not and during the hearing did not deny this charge. FBW failed to provide any supervision of his activities FBW did not deny this charge. Two arbitrators repudiated or at least took issue with several of the B/D shortcomings cited in the excellent June 2004 SEC/NASD Variable Annuities Study. BOTTOM LINE: The case was dismissed by the Arbitration Panel without reason. Of course, when an association of securities dealers passes judgment on its own what more can one expect?? I am presently in contact with the SEC Director of Compliance on this case.
For the past four years at least, the individual investor marketplace has become strewn with lies, deceit, malfeasance, distrust and more lies. The backbone of capitalism in our democracy has become disjointed. It is high time that the SEC put the hammer down and restore some semblance of trust on Wall Street. It is requested that the SEC:
1. Withdraw the proposed Merrill Lynch rule in its entirety and prevent broker/dealers from masquerading as persons with a fiduciary responsibility.
2. Conduct a full-scale investigation of the NASD arbitration process from top to bottom.
Thomas C. Grzymala, CFP, AIFA