Requiring brokers and advisors to provide retail investors with more "concise" disclosures could be a better alternative to adopting uniform fiduciary duty rules for both professions, a top U.S. regulator said on Tuesday.

Such disclosures could help ameliorate the confusion about the duty that brokers and advisors have to clients when providing investment advice, said Michael Piwowar, a Republican member of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC could also conduct its own investor testing to help develop the most useful disclosure forms, he added.

"If our concern is that retail investors are confused about the duties their broker-dealers and investment advisors are subject to, the commission should consider whether that confusion could be resolved through means other than a uniform fiduciary standard of care," said Piwowar, in prepared remarks before the National Association of Plan Advisors.

Tuesday marked the first time that Piwowar, who joined the SEC in 2013, has delved so deeply into the contentious debate over how to address the disjointed rules governing retail brokers and advisors.

Investment advisors are held to a higher "fiduciary" duty, meaning they must put a client's interest ahead of their own. Brokers are held to a lower "suitability" standard.

For years, the SEC has been weighing how to tackle the different standards, but has not achieved a consensus.

The RAND Corporation released a study in 2008 at the SEC's request that found investors are confused by these distinctions when they seek investment advice.

The SEC later in 2011 released its own study -- as required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law -- that called for tackling the confusion by adopting a uniform fiduciary standard.

The SEC has not, however, taken any steps to adopt rules since the study was published, in part because Republican commissioners at that time lambasted its findings. They said the commission lacked any evidence that investors were being harmed or that a uniform standard would reduce confusion.

The SEC has since sought more data and evidence to help it decide whether to proceed.

Nearly a year ago, SEC Chair Mary Jo White said the SEC was still trying to decide whether to proceed with a rule, but has given few indications about her own views or the path forward.

Piwowar said on Tuesday that he has "not yet reached a conclusion" on whether a new standard of care should be imposed.

He does believe investor confusion exists, but harbors strong doubts that imposing a uniform fiduciary duty would solve the problem. Such a move could actually "harm" investors by limiting their financial advisory options, he said.

In calling for better disclosures to eliminate investor confusion, Piwowar also drew on his personal experience, saying that when his adviser recently switched brokerages, he was handed a "thick packet of paper" that was filled with "worthless" disclosures.