CFP Board Posts Anonymous Case Histories
For the first time, the CFP Board of Standards is posting sensitive information online about actual misconduct cases that have come before it for the public and financial advisors to see.

The board has posted a collection of roughly 100 anonymous histories of cases heard between November 2007 to July 2009 by the board's Disciplinary and Ethics Commission, which hears allegations of misconduct by CFP certificants.

"The ultimate goal of putting this sensitive information online is both to improve our transparency as a standards-setting body for the financial planning profession, and to provide a new user-friendly resource to our CFP certificants," says CFP Board CEO Kevin R. Keller.

The anonymous case histories will enable certificants and members of the public to identify specific types of activities that CFP Board deems to be contrary to its standards, the CFP Board says. The histories may also be useful to a CFP certificant preparing to appear before the commission, as well as to theĀ  commission itself in determining whether a contemplated offer of settlement is appropriate based on its precedent decisions, it added.

The histories include the issue presented as well as findings of fact relevant to the commission's decision and its analysis and conclusions regarding rules that were violated. For example, one of the histories describes a revocation case in which the advisor did not deliver a promised financial plan for an 85-year-old client, borrowed $1,000 from the client and then recommended that the client invest about two-thirds of his life savings, or $75,000, in a viatical. The commission found rules were violated and revoked the advisor's CFP license.

The cases can be searched by kinds of decision (13 that include revocations, suspensions, dismissals and more), keywords, standards violated and categories of cases.

As case histories, they don't read like rollicking narratives. Yet aside from their goal of being instructive, some have their quirky moments. Take for example the case of a person whose CFP designation was revoked because he solicited financial professionals through an e-mail that contained unprofessional language including, "What to say to a qualified prospect so that he dumps his other advisor like rotten goods."

Other lines used by this person included: "Drip marketing that acts like acid to dissolve the relationship with their current advisor"; "Stop talking to poor people. Find the wealthy retirees and learn to make them your clients"; and, "It's so easy to take business from other advisors when you know the few secrets of competitive marketing."

Although the CFP Board previously had not posted anonymous case histories on its Web site, respondents were routinely provided with a hard copy of anonymous case histories from 2004 to 2007 to help them prepare for their hearing, says Michael Shaw, managing director, Professional Review and Legal, CFP Board. Going forward, the board will refer respondents to its Web site to read such cases, he added.

Shaw says the initial response to the new case histories initiative has been positive. One example, he notes, is that the CFP Board's registered programs use them to teach their students.

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