A group of advisors intends to add another voice to the campaign to adopt a fiduciary standard for all advisors.
Calling themselves the Committee for the Fiduciary Standard, the group says it will wage a media campaign to urge Congress to uphold an "authentic fiduciary standard" as it explores reforms of the way financial advisors are regulated.
"Few investors understand the stark differences between the brokers' suitability standard and the investment advisors' fiduciary standard," said Knut A. Rostad, a member of the group's founding committee and the compliance officer at Rembert Pendleton Jackson, a registered investment advisor.
The committee says its goal is to promote reform that includes a requirement that advisors follow five core principles:
1. Putting the client's interests first.
2. Acting with prudence, defined as acting with "skill, care, diligence and good judgment."
3. Not misleading clients and providing "conspicuous, full and fair disclosure of all important facts."
4. Avoiding conflicts of interest.
5. The full disclosure of unavoidable conflicts.
In addition to Rostad, the committee members are Blaine Aikin of Fiduciary360 LLP; Clark Blackman of Alpha Wealth Strategies LLC; Harold Evensky of Evensky & Katz; Sheryl Garrett of the Garrett Planning Network; Rober C. Gibson of Gibson Capital LLC; Matthew D. Hutcheson of Independent Pension Fiduciary; Gregory W. Kasten of Unified Trust Company; Kate McBride of Wealth Manager magazine; Fred Reish of Reish, Luftman, Reicher & Cohen; and Ronald W. Roge of R.W. Roge & Company.
"We are spelling out in the form of our five principles what the authentic fiduciary standard means," Rostad said. "We are reaching out to the broader media and explaining why the authentic fiduciary standard is vital to investors."
The group announced its formation, ironically enough, on the same day that one of Wall Streets most notorious scam artists, Bernard Madoff, was sentenced to 150 years in prison for masterminding a massive Ponzi scheme that cost his institutional and individual investor clients billions. The Securities and Exchange Commission, meanwhile, has been cracking down on similar schemes, some of whom orchestrated by advisors who were nominally obliged to act as fiduciaries.
Noting the taint of scandal that has spread across the entire financial services industry, fiduciaries included, Rostad said that shouldn't diminish the importance of a fiduciary standard.
"I don't think any group has proclaimed sainthood, including RIAs," he said. "In any group, there is going to be the bad apples ... The key issue is, should investors expect that their advisor will only act in their best interests all the time, period."