NAPFA currently has roughly 2,100 members. To attain membership, applicants pay $475, submit for review a recent comprehensive plan for a client, agree to offer comprehensive financial planning and sign a fiduciary oath. Members also must complete 60 hours of continuing education. On January 1, 2010, all NAPFA members will be required to hold the Certified Financial Planner designation.

But CFP certification and vows of fiduciary fidelity don't provide ironclad protection for clients. "As one of our members said, criminality isn't something you can protect against," Lassus adds. "What you can do is set the bar very high, monitor behavior and make sure those folks don't remain as members."

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