Based on comments received by the Securities and Exchange Commission during the past month, it appears the majority of people who sent letters to the agency don't want the fiduciary standard of care imposed on the advisory industry.

As mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that became law this summer, the SEC is undertaking a six-month study of the obligations and standards of care of broker-dealers and investment advisors providing personalized investment advice about securities to retail investors. As part of that process, the agency on July 27 published a request for public comment on the issue.

The comment period closed Monday, and roughly 60% of the letters sent to the SEC said they don't want to see a universal fiduciary standard applied across the industry.

Granted, that tally comes from five "types," or categories of comments created by the SEC to organize the responses received. These categories are organized in a form letter format and express a certain point of view toward the fiduciary standard. According to SEC spokesman John Heine, these categories were set up "instead of loading up the page with entries for each letter received."

He added that letters that didn't fit into one of the five category types were listed individually.

All told, the five categories contain 426 comments. That's only about 18% of the roughly 2,350 comments sent to the agency in total.

Heine said the agency doesn't know how many of the approximately 1,900 individual comments are pro- or anti-fiduciary standard.

Among the comments put into the categories established by the SEC, it appears the insurance industry did its part to pooh-pooh the need for a one-size-fits-all fiduciary standard.

"I have serious concerns about the possible adoption of a new 'best interest' standard for broker-dealers, and by extension, life insurance producers who sell variable insurance products," read one of the form letter-like category descriptions. "I believe such a general standard will create liability and uncertainty, but will provide no measurable benefit to investors.

"The fiduciary duty of investment advisers gives scant protection to investors in light of the infrequency of Commission examinations," it continued. "Most small advisers have no federal regulation and oversight whatsoever, whereas insurance producers who sell variable insurance products must respond to examinations and audits at both the federal and state level, and are subject to regulation by both insurance and securities regulators. These gaps and shortcomings in oversight of advisers is an area of investor protection that the Commission should address first, before changing any standards of care for brokers."

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