A husband-and-wife advisor team in Florida is suing the CFP Board of Standards over disciplinary action the board is planning to take against them for using "fee-only" in their advertising.
On Sept. 5, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., set out a court schedule for motions that means the case, if it is not settled, would not be heard before March 2014.
In recent months, the CFP Board has questioned a number of advisors who claim to be fee-only and challenged their representation of their firms.
The most high-profile case involved former CFP Board Chairman Alan Goldfarb, who resigned earlier this year after it was revealed that he held a small equity interest in a small broker-dealer. Goldfarb himself worked in a fee-only firm. The controversy has prompted other advisors who thought they were fee-only to question how the CFP Board would view their compensation status if they own stock in a bank like Bank of America, which in turn owns brokerage giant Merrill Lynch.
The most recent suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington by advisors Jeffrey M. and Kimberly K. Camarda, accuses the CFP Board of acting arbitrarily and not taking evidence in the case. The CFP Board had said it was planning to issue a public letter of admonition against the two advisors last January—an action the Camardas contend would harm their firms. The date is moot now because of the court proceedings.
Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Leon on Sept. 5 set a schedule for court proceedings and filing of motions that concludes March 14. The procedures are required before the case can be heard.
The Camardas operate two businesses in Fleming Island, Fla. Camarda Financial Advisors LLC is a financial advisory firm that operates on a fee-only basis and Camarda Consultants LLC is an insurance agency that operates on a commission basis, according to the lawsuit.
The CFP Board maintains standards and administers the CFP certification, which both of the Camardas hold. After a competitor filed a complaint with the CFP Board about the Camardas’ use of the term fee-only in their advertising, the CFP Board began an investigation. The board concluded in December 2011 that the two companies were part of the same practice and that the Camardas violated the CFP Board's rules by saying it offered fee-only services.
The Camardas maintain in the lawsuit, filed in June, that the two companies operate separately and that clients are given a written notice of the fee used by both companies. The couple filed the lawsuit after a CFP Board panel rejected their appeal of the board's ruling.
CFP Board spokesman Dan Drummond said the lawsuit is without merit. He could not comment on the specifics of the suit.