Investment News Washington Bureau Chief urges SEC to get real on fiduciary and CRS
This article originally appeared on InvestmentNews by Mark Schoeff Jr.
The NFL playoffs have been spectacular, but college basketball brings me even more viewing pleasure this time of year. Almost nothing can diminish the fun — except fiduciary duty.
A couple of weeks ago, I was watching my alma mater play a crucial conference game when a commercial from a financial firm aired. The ad touted that its advisers were fiduciaries to their clients.
That assertion caught the attention of a friend, who said all financial advisers have a fiduciary duty to their clients. Another friend responded: “No, that’s not right. There also is the suitability standard.”
They were both wrong.
I felt like Flo in the Progressive commercial, trying to resist the temptation to discuss insurance while at the beach when people nearby start talking about bundling their boat, car and homes in one package.
Unlike Flo, however, I sidestepped the conversation about fiduciary duty. Over my nearly 12 years at InvestmentNews, I have written more stories about investment advice standards than any other topic. On occasion, I have had dreams about the issue.
But I minded my own business and did not correct my friends, on a day off, while we were watching exciting college hoops.
But I could have said to them: Investment advisers are governed by fiduciary duty. Registered representatives of brokerage firms, however, now must adhere to Regulation Best Interest, the broker standard of conduct that resembles fiduciary duty but is not fiduciary duty. Reg BI essentially has replaced suitability, but there’s an ongoing debate about whether it’s stronger than suitability.
The company in the advertisement that sparked my friends’ conversation was in fact an investment advisory firm and its adviser had to adhere to fiduciary duty. But as we watch the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics, the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments — actually any sporting event — we will be bombarded with ads from brokerages and insurance companies implying that they are fiduciaries when, in reality, they’re not.
The ads in heavy rotation are designed to attract clients who are planning for retirement on their own thanks to 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts. The firms beckon them, saying that they can be their trusted financial adviser. Trusted maybe, but, in most cases, not a fiduciary.
Whether a financial adviser is governed by fiduciary duty or Reg BI may not affect how she delivers investment advice. […]
The Institute for the Fiduciary Standard complained that the guidance actually confused the issue of whether the term “fiduciary duty” can be used on Form CRS. That term can’t appear in one section. Elsewhere, advisers have free rein to include it on their Form CRS.
Read the full article at InvestmentNews.com