2007 was my last year on the Board of Directors of the Financial Planning Association and Kevin Keller’s first year at the CFP Board. The CFP Board bears little resemblance to what it was back then and I thank Mr. Keller for that. I also give a great deal of credit to the various people who have served on the Board of Directors for the CFP Board.

My entire tenure on the FPA's board was made far too challenging by the CFP Board's CEOs pre-Keller.  The transformation has been substantial and positive.

Pre-Keller, we would try to collaborate with the CFP Board and were often rebutted with the reminder that because the CFP Board was a 501(c)(3) organization and the FPA was a 501(c)(6), they could not proceed. A 501(c)(3) is supposed to solely benefit the public, a 501(c)(6) is to benefit members.  It is a legitimate distinction that must be respected, but it often came across as an excuse.

My FPA board service was marked by the FPA’s suit against the SEC over its proposal to exempt broker-dealers from the requirements of the Investment Adviser Act for fee-based accounts.  We would have loved some help with advocacy, but only a little came. The reasons were almost always some riff on the (c)(3) vs (c)(6) tune.

Worse, instead of advocating with the CFP Board, with memories of the “CFP Lite” still vivid, we were actually advocating against the CFP Board proposals for a weak pseudo-fiduciary standard. 

Then Mr. Keller arrived and moved the CFP Board to Washington, D.C.  In the ensuing years, the CFP Board got its footing back and has been on more solid ground ever since. This is fantastic.

So much has changed in recent years. The creation of the Financial Planning Coalition, the public awareness campaign, and new projects like the Women’s initiative, the academic initiatives and the recently announced Career Center could not be where they are if the CFP Board hadn’t achieved some stability.

This was not a smooth process by any means. In mid-2008, several members of the Discipline and Ethics Commission (DEC) resigned in protest, and I was asked to serve as chair of the DEC. What I found was a disciplinary process that was every bit as good as it was when I had served on hearing panels in the past. The crux of the dispute was over governance changes that the resigning members believed would give the staff too much influence at the expense of the influence of practitioners.

The DEC members that did not resign were also not pleased with the proposal. I agreed and we set about trying to affect change.  We even got the proposals put out for public comment.  By the time my service on the DEC was over, we did not get all we wanted, but I left feeling much better about the process used to change some of the governance rules, and importantly, the hearing process was intact and as good as ever.

Today, however, my confidence in the process and the organization, while still high, is definitely lower. How could it not be? The CFP Board is being sued and has endured a rash of bad press over the issue of who is and who is not “fee-only.” More disturbing to me though was the odd case of Alan Goldfarb.