For the last five years we've published a survey of registered investment advisors every July. And this July we plan
to do so again.

The purpose of the survey is to provide our readers with a 20,000-foot view of the competitive landscape that they are addressing on a daily basis. Like every big picture taken from high in the air, the level of detail isn't precise. Though our staff spot-checks ADV forms, we also rely on the honesty and integrity of RIAs themselves, all of whom are fiduciaries, not to misrepresent themselves or engage in distortions.

If ever there was a year when advisors might have been tempted to fudge at least a little, it was last year, when RIAs reported their results for 2008, one of the worst years in the century. It's rewarding to work with so many advisors who were willing to participate in last year's survey and to bare painful results with brutal honesty. Still, I suspect the incentives to participate this July will be greatly enhanced.

So it is with anger that I discovered one advisor, who claims to be a CFP licensee and proclaims himself to be an advocate of self-directed investing, using the statistics in last year's survey with extreme dishonesty to make his point. The purpose of his misleading exercise is to make investors wonder why they should pay advisors' annual fees of 1% to 2% to lose anywhere from 9% to 62% of their assets when they can lose their own money without paying an advisor.

If he were a college kid pulling a National Lampoon-style prank, it might be forgivable, even amusing. But this silver-haired gentleman proclaims himself to be a CFP since 2004, a magna cum laude college graduate and an accounting professional for over 35 years who boasts he loves numbers, statistics and economic history.

If he is so smart at statistics, how was it so easy to catch him in his pathetic little game? Here's what he did.

Simply put, this self-proclaimed statistics lover took the average change in assets per client and equated it with investment performance. Nice try.

But even yours truly could have seen through this false methodology back when he was a college freshman majoring in throwing beer cans out the window. It makes one wonder what matchbook cover of a university this clown got his magna cum laude degree from.

All sorts of factors-including client withdrawals, the timing of accepting new assets and the loss of a few big clients-could have influenced the average change in assets per client. Take the case of one respected RIA he cites. She lost substantial assets when she got divorced from her husband, a major referral source, and he moved across the country, taking several large clients with him. This had nothing to do with investment performance.

It's a privilege to spend a big chunk of my life covering an emerging profession populated with so many people of honesty and integrity who really care about their clients. It's also disturbing to find instances when one person can cynically manipulate data to his advantage in an attempt to disparage the hard work of so many others.

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