Advisors need to prepare themselves for a nasty eventuality that looks like a near certainty when the market next crashes. According to a top wealth management lawyer, there are likely to be a great deal of lawsuits filed by clients against their advisors whenever the next big crash comes. The lawsuits will be focused on claims of reverse churning, or that advisors put client money in fee-baseds account in order to collect fees without offering significant advice or trading. Since switching clients into fee-based accounts (versus commission-based accounts) has been a very common practice over the last several years, the atmosphere is ripe for a massive wave of lawsuits.
FINSUM: This article is worryingly insightful. The big switch to fee-based accounts, which preceded but also corresponded to the DOL rule, might have set up advisors for some major legal headaches in the next downturn.
Fidelity is doubling down on its recent move to offer completely free index funds with no investment minimums. The money manager will launch a pair of new free index funds, one focused on large caps, and the other on the “extended market” (or small and midcaps), in late September. The new free funds are part of Fidelity’s strategy to compete vigorously on pricing to bring in new clients, and then try to earn money from them spending on other services.
FINSUM: Fidelity is almost using these funds as loss leaders in order to drum up other business. This may work for them because they have such a large product suite, but for less diversified managers, it poses a serious challenge.
For several years Vanguard was seen as the champion of low-cost investing. It led the revolution in ever-lower cost ETFs. However, just recently, it seems to have fallen on hard times as it is facing challenges on multiple fronts. In particular, it is suffering at the hands of Fidelity, which is undercutting it on fund pricing. Fidelity’s recent no-fee index funds mean they are even cheaper than Vanguard’s lowest cost funds. The second, and perhaps even more worrisome challenge, relates to investment minimums, which Fidelity did away with on its cheapest funds. Vanguard’s minimums are now starting to look old-fashioned by comparison.
FINSUM: The best way for Vanguard to compete would be to merge some of the classes of their products. However, doing so would require a big revenue haircut, all of which means the company has some tough choices to make.
Fidelity made a huge splash in the asset and wealth management world’ about a month ago when it launched the markets first completely free indexed mutual funds, and with no investment minimums. The move sparked big share price losses for other asset managers and seemed to spell doom for the industry. But how have the funds actually performed so far? The answer is well. The pair of funds have taken in almost $1 bn of client money in just a month, which is considered a solid success.
FINSUM: We think this is a good showing for Fidelity, but one of the other issues the zero fee funds have brought up is that there are many other terms of index funds that investors need to pay close attention to. Not just price.
New academic analysis has found part of the full cost of the DOL rule on the financial sector. A group of academics analyzed the market cap movements of the top 30 brokerage and fund providers and found that, in aggregate, the DOL rule cost firms $14 bn of market cap. That figure does not include the money spent to prepare for the rule, just changes in share valuation that directly resulted form the rule. However, the same firms have since benefitted strongly from the so-called Trump Effect.
FINSUM: The DOL rule ended up being an enormous waste of time that in hindsight appears to have been doomed from the beginning. We will say that its lasting effect was to bring consciousness of fiduciary duty to the wider public.
By far the biggest focus of the recent tax package has been its limiting of SALT deductions to just $10,000. The current implementation of the rule was considered phase one by Republicans, with phase two—making the changes permanent—supposed to happen this fall. However, given how tight the congressional races are, including in high tax states like New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Illinois, many Republicans are now considering delaying the vote so that sitting representatives don’t have to take a stand on the package.
FINSUM: The SALT limits are wildly unpopular in many locations, and the Republicans are rightfully worried that pushing for making them permanent could cost them some seats. Will this eventually lead to the repeal of the rule?