If you are a hybrid BD/RIA, you need to pay attention. FINRA is trying to loosen the strictures in which you might find yourself. In particular, FINRA wants to make changes to its outside business activity rule. It no longer wants to force hybrid B-Ds to have compliance tracking for their RIA businesses. Being legally liable for such businesses can prove a major cost burden. “The motive for taking a percentage payout on the RIAs advisory business will go away”, says one industry insider.
FINSUM: This will certainly be a welcome change for the many hybrid RIAs who deal with the current FINRA rule.
The big discount brokerages might be poised for an ugly PR nightmare. In an expose type article, the WSJ has highlighted how big discount brokers like TD Ameritrade and Fidelity hide the fact that their account managers have conflicts of interest. Such managers often tell clients they don’t get paid on commission and therefore don’t have conflicts of interest. Yet in reality they do have incentive pay that biases their advice to steer clients into more expensive products. One former manager from Fidelity comments that “You’re omitting certain facts that the client would probably appreciate understanding before you launch into a sales pitch on why you think this product is better”.
FINSUM: This is definitely something that those who use discount brokerages should be aware of. It remains to be seen what the fallout from this expose might be.
If there was ever exciting news in the fiduciary rule saga, this is it. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the SEC will deliver a proposed comprehensive fiduciary rule in the second quarter of this year. The challenge of delivering a rule governing all accounts will be very challenging however, even as the SEC says it is fast-tracking development, as it will be bombarded from both sides. One of the directors from the Consumer Federation of America puts it bluntly, “It’s difficult to see how they can come up with a solution that does not land them in court … If they propose a rule we like, industry will sue them. If they give industry a disclosure-based best interest standard that they want, we’ll sue them”.
FINSUM: The SEC is in a tough position, but them coming up with a proposal for a comprehensive rule would be a step in the right direction.
Advisors keep your eyes open, FINRA has put out a new warning on what not to do. The regulator says that dually-registered advisors need to be very careful when moving client funds from a brokerage to an advisory account. FINRA explains best, saying “Finra will review situations in which registered representatives recommend a switch from a brokerage account where that switch clearly disadvantages the customer … such as where the registered representative recommended that the customer purchase a securities product subject to a front-end sales charge in a brokerage account and then shortly thereafter recommended that account be transferred to a fee-based account”.
FINSUM: This is sort of a suitability/fiduciary rule hybrid type of enforcement. We thought all advisors should be aware that FINRA is on the lookout for this.
Those hoping for a complete end to the DOL’s fiduciary rule should keep their fingers crossed, as despite political pushback, and success on slowing down the rule, the GOP is still working hard to defeat the rule. The newest chance comes in the form of a rider on the current spending bill which is designed to do away with the rule. Previous attempts at doing so have been heavily opposed by Democrats.
FINSUM: We think this one actually has a better chance of getting through. The reason why is that the tide has definitively turned against the DOL rule, and so Democrats may be more willing to give it up as a trade or concession as part of a spending deal.
2017 was a wild year for both the wealth management industry and for its most famous regulation—the fiduciary rule. But what will happen in 2018? The answer is a lot, and not all in the direction some might think. While the DOL rule does feel like it might be on its last legs given the long delay and SEC involvement in developing a new rule, there are some factors which might help it, or at least advance the fiduciary rule cause. For instance, industry buy-in of the rule, especially by big firms, is increasing as they realize it is more profitable to adhere because of higher revenues from fee-based accounts. Additionally, many states are working on their own rules, another factor likely to push federal rule-makers. Finally, the SEC may come out with its own universal rule this year.
FINSUM: We expect it to be another wild ride in the fiduciary saga this year. Our best bet is that the SEC will come close to making a rule this year, but that it will not be implemented until mid 2019.