Straight Talk on the Fiduciary Standard
If Wall Street were really interested in having a total commitment to the long-term interests of its clients, it would embrace a fiduciary standard. But it does just the opposite: It lobbies in Washington, spends big bucks on politicians, and does everything it can as an industry to avoid what a fiduciary standard requires. In 2007, former SEC chair Christopher Cox described the Wall Street business model as a "witch's brew of hidden fees, conflicts of interest" which is "at odds with investors' best interests.
- an excerpt from a recent Morningstar.com article written by W. Scott Simon (a noted expert on fiduciary issues) on the standard of care to which financial advisors employed by brokerage firms are held in dealing with clients.
Recently, Barbara Roper was interviewed by Fiduciary News. In case you are unfamiliar with her name, she is the Consumer Federation of America's director of investor protection and a member of the SEC's Investor Advisory Committee. In 2012 she was recognized as a "Money Hero" by Money Magazine. She was asked, "Why do you think the fiduciary standard [of financial advice] is so important?, to which she responded:
"The longer I work on this issue, the more convinced I become that ensuring that all advice is subject to a robust fiduciary standard is the most important thing we can do to improve protections for average investors. We all know that investors can't distinguish between brokers and investment advisers, particularly since brokers have been allowed to re-brand themselves as financial advisers. They don't understand the difference between a fiduciary duty and a suitability standard. They certainly don't understand that their investment adviser has to act in their best interest, but their financial adviser doesn't. And why should they understand it? It doesn't make sense.
The upshot of all of this is that the typical investor simply can't make an informed choice between the different types of financial professionals. Beyond that, we know that the typical investor is also ill-equipped to evaluate investments, does very little independent research of the investments recommended to them, and relies heavily, if not exclusively, on the recommendations they receive. That makes investors extraordinarily vulnerable and is precisely the sort of relationship of trust that demands fiduciary protection."