None other than Eugene Scalia, son of former Supreme Court justice Anton Scalia, has now written a formal letter asking that the courts expedite their ruling on the fiduciary rule. Scalia says that Massachusetts’ new attack on Scottrade is a sign that the rule needs to be settled once and for all, as having it half-implemented means heightened legal risk. The wealth management industry has been waiting several months for a final decision on a fiduciary rule case in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Scalia called for urgency, saying “The action also shows that the fiduciary rule is exacerbating the risk of litigation, even absent 'best-interest contracts”.
FINSUM: There is absolutely no point to having a half-implemented rule. The government (courts included) either needs to fully implement a rule, or get rid of the concept entirely, because the half-in nature of today’s arrangement if not beneficial for anyone.
Many advisors still dismiss green investment, and do so for a number of reasons. Some of these include the asset class as having lower returns, or just being a “niche” interest that is too small of a market. While the perception on returns has already been readily proven to be a fallacy, there is another area where green investment could help clients—in a downturn. Recent evidence from the US downturn showed that green funds tended to perform much better than the market overall during the selloff, suggesting that the underlying securities are more resistant to losses than their conventional share counterparts.
FINSUM: This is hardly a mountain of evidence, but it is certainly suggestive of a potential benefit for green shares.
In what will surely go down as a landmark case, the state of Massachusetts is going after Scottrade in the first prosecution of misconduct under the fiduciary rule. Massachusetts says the broker held sales contests for its reps, before the acquisition by TD Ameritrade in September, which violated fiduciary standards. The state said about the prosecution that “If the Department of Labor will not enforce its own laws and rules, then the states must do what they can to protect retirees from firms who believe they can play with peoples’ life savings by conducting sophomoric contests”.
FINSUM: The developing role of states in both creating and enforcing the fiduciary rule/s is quite interesting. We are afraid the leadership vacuum currently surrounding the federal law might lead to a patchwork nightmare.
When you think of the big wealth management players in the country, even just the big wirehouses, Goldman Sachs is not a name that comes to mind. More associated with investment banking, the bank now plans to greatly expand its wealth management practice as it tries to bring in ultra high net worth individuals as customers. The bank plans to grow advisor headcount by 30% by 2020, with CEO Lloyd Blankfein commenting “The world seems to be growing rich people faster than we can grow advisers to cover them”. Goldman Sachs currently has 700 advisors.
FINSUM: So they only have 700 advisors, but the typical client has over $50m in assets. Goldman is certainly going after the high margin strategy here.
While the idea is more important for retail investors, we thought Bloomberg’s article today warning about buying ETFs might also be relevant for advisors. Bloomberg argues that the name “ETF” has become so vague as to be almost meaningless, and that investors need to be very disciplined in understanding the fund before buying it. The catch-all term “ETF” now encompasses everything from ultra-low cost index tracking funds to hugely leveraged volatility funds, all traded under often simple names and tickers.
FINSUM: The name of the game here is to read the fund prospectus and deeply understand the product being bought. But advisors already know that!
The SEC says that a lack of fee disclosures related to conflicts of interest may be rife across the wealth management industry. Now the SEC is giving a free pass to those that have failed to disclose. So long as investors come clean and give money back to investors, they won’t be punished. The biggest abuses seem to be in the lack of disclosure of mutual fund fees, which goes against the rules laid out in the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Those who come forward will not face civil monetary penalties, but that special treatment will only be for those who come forward voluntarily.
FINSUM: Hard to say how big of a problem this is. But it does sound like this might be a good way to clean up the issue quickly.