The Financial Planning Association has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to restrict the role of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority when it comes to regulating financial planning.
The FPA wrote the letter in response to a recent enforcement action by FINRA involving Ameritas Investment Corp., in which a dually registered broker-dealer and investment advisor allegedly used misleading financial plans with more than 220 customers.
While it praised FINRA for cracking down on unsuitable investment sales, the FPA letter questioned FINRA's authority when it comes to regulating financial planning.
"Due to FINRA's absence of legal authority to regulate broad financial planning activities, and to its inability to impose a fiduciary standard that would enhance investor protection, we believe this task is best carried out by the SEC," FPA President Richard Salmen wrote.
In a response this afternoon, FINRA argued that it has clear jurisdiction over Ameritas-which is registered as both a broker-dealer and investment advisor-and the company's broker.
"Instead of being outraged by conduct that has harmed investors, FPA seems to be upset that FINRA brought disciplinary actions against Ameritas and its broker and provided compensation to affected customers," FINRA said in its statement.
The letter is part of an ongoing battle within the advisory profession over which organization-and by extension, which standards-will be used to regulate investment advisors and financial planners.
FINRA, a corporation that acts as Wall Street's self-regulating body, wants to extend its reach to registered investment advisors. The FPA, however, has argued that advisors should be regulated by SEC under the standards of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.
One of the key distinctions of the Advisers Act is that it requires investment advisors to act as fiduciaries, in the best interests of their clients. FINRA rules, by comparison, require brokers to ensure their clients are getting suitable investments.
"As Congress undertakes reform of the financial services industry, we point to this particular case as another reason why investors remain confused and vulnerable under the current form of 'silo' regulation," Salmen wrote.
FINRA responded that it shares the FPA's goal of using a single fiduciary standard that applies to both advisors and brokers.
"FINRA believes that there should be a fiduciary standard that applies to both advisors and brokers and that there should be robust examination and enforcement regimes to enforce that standard and to protect investors," FINRA said.