"If you walk into a Ford dealership, the guy that walks up to you is not giving you advice," said Michael Aronstein, president of New York-based Marketfield Asset Management, a registered investment advisor. "If you want to sell something, that's fine," he said. "On your card, it should say registered sales representative. Period."

Harold Evensky, president of Coral Gables, Fla.-based Evensky & Katz Wealth Management, said he's concerned there will be a redefining of fiduciary just to equate it with more disclosure, "which would be a staggering watering down of real fiduciary duty."

There has been a "lack of certainty in the marketplace today on just what level of duty is owed to me by whatever shop I happen to walk into on Main Street," Representative Scott Garrett, the new chairman of the House of Representatives' capital markets subcommittee, said in an interview. "There's no simple solution to that."

Investment Advisors

Another report from the SEC may recommend that Congress enact legislation authorizing the SEC to designate one or more self-regulatory organizations for investment advisors.

"I am open to that idea," said Garrett, a Republican from New Jersey, who said he hasn't made a final decision because he's waiting for the study. The Dodd-Frank act increased the advisor asset threshold to $100 million from $25 million for those required to register with the SEC, which will shift an estimated 4,000 smaller advisors from SEC to state oversight.

Aguilar has opposed creating another regulator and said in a 2009 speech that moving oversight would be "a more costly alternative than if you simply provided the SEC with adequate resources." The "SEC should not outsource its mission," he said.

SEC Chairman Schapiro won't be able to weigh in because she has recused herself, according to a person familiar with her decision, who asked not to be identified because her decision hasn't been announced. Schapiro was chief executive officer of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the independent securities regulator, which is interested in assuming investment advisor oversight. She was appointed under President Barack Obama's executive order that incoming officials would not make decisions affecting their previous employers for two years.

Finra Help

"We are well-positioned to help in that area, if the SEC and Congress decide that a self-regulatory organization is necessary," Howard Schloss, Finra's executive vice president in charge of government relations, said in an interview. "The SEC, as it has stated in the past, can only examine and only plans to examine this year about 9% of investment advisors," Schloss said. "That's a disservice to investors."