Will investors actually understand proposed disclosure forms that are supposed to help them comprehend key differences between brokers and investment advisors? Will they understand what conflicts their financial professional may have? What they’ll pay for the services?

No one is certain yet. But the effectiveness of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed new disclosures is so important to consumer and financial planning groups that they’ve hired their own “plain English” expert to test the SEC’s dense four-page customer relationship summary (Form CRS) proposal to see if it actually helps investors make informed choices about which type of professional best meets their needs.

The form is a critical piece of the SEC’s Best Interest proposal, which is supposed to tighten sales standards across the broker-dealer and advisory industries.

The AARP, Consumer Federation of America and the Financial Planning Coalition have hired Susan Kleimann, founder and president of Kleimann Communications Group, to test the Form CRS to see if investors are able to understand the disclosure and what the key differences are between an advisor’s fiduciary duty and a broker’s best interest standards of care.

Kleimann has worked widely with federal regulators including the SEC, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission in the past to test and develop consumer education materials.

“We are testing the effectiveness and usability of the SEC’s proposed approach using the SEC’s own mock-ups,” said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America. “We expect to release the results in mid-September.”

While the SEC has said it is doing its own testing, it has declined to make results available before the August 7 comment deadline on the proposal. The SEC has also declined to extend the deadline until test results can be made available, although a broad consortium of consumer and planning groups requested the extension.

“The reason why we did our own testing is because it was unclear to us what the SEC is doing,” said Maureen Thompson, the CFP Board’s vice president of public policy. “We heard them say they are doing testing, but it was unclear when results will be available, what the public would know and how we’d be able to evaluate the results in context of the overall rule proposal, since they go hand in hand.”

Form CRS is supposed to clearly communicate to clients whether they are working with a broker-dealer, an advisor or a dual-registrant. The disclosure is also supposed to require an explanation of the principal types of services offered; the legal standards of conduct that apply to the investment advisor, the broker-dealer or dual registrant (whichever relationship applies); the fees a client might pay; and certain conflicts of interest that may exist.

“Because the disclosure is so central to the overall regulatory proposal, we wanted to come together quickly to underwrite credible, data-driven research in a very short time line,” said Cristina Martin Firvida, the AARP’s director of financial security and consumer affairs.

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