The Financial Planning Association (FPA) has brought the weight of its membership to bear in the debate over whether CFP certificants should be held to a fiduciary standard.

   In a recent survey, the FPA announced today, 87% of its responding members said they would support the inclusion of a fiduciary standard under the CFP Code of Ethics that would require certificants to act in a client's best interest. Of the 1,773 FPA members who responded to the survey, 10% did not support the inclusion and the rest were unfamiliar with the issue or had no opinion.

   "The survey again shows the high ethical standard which planners themselves believe should be the hallmark of their work," FPA President Daniel B. Moisand said in a prepared statement. "The vast majority of FPA members are clearly willing to be held accountable to a client-first standard."

   The idea of financial planners acting as a fiduciary for clients has become a touch subject within the planning field for a number of reasons.

   The survey comes at a time when the CFP Board of Standards is prepared to release a revision of its Code of Ethics, possibly as early as the end of June. The CFP Board's board of governors has been under pressure to include a fiduciary standard as part of the revision, but the board has signaled this will not be the case.

   In a recent interview, Barton C. Francis, chairman of the CFP Board's board of governors, said the inclusion of the word "fiduciary" in the ethics code would be problematic because it has multiple meanings depending on the legal jurisdiction. "The word itself, if not put into context, has all different kinds of meanings in all different kinds of locations."

   The FPA is also in the midst of waging a court battle against the Securities and Exchange Commission over a rule that exempts brokers from the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. One of the FPA's key objections to the rule is that it allows brokers to work under the CFP mark without an obligation to put a client's interests first, so long as they adequately disclose this fact to clients.

   The survey released by FPA was sent to 22,373 members via e-mail in early May. Responses were received from 1,773 members, according to FPA. FPA has a total of about 28,000 members, but several thousand have not provided the FPA with an e-mail address for organization mailings, according to FPA spokesman Brad White.
About 1,460 respondents are CFP certificants, according to the FPA.

   When given a list of views on the SEC's exemption rule, 50.67% of respondents chose, "I disagree with the SEC guidance because it allows brokers to use the CFP marks simply as a marketing tool."

   The second most popular response, chosen by 16% of respondents, was, "I disagree with the SEC guidance because it might give consumers the impression that the broker will act in their best interest and is providing financial planning services."

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