That this ruling, which takes effect today, has been so hotly debated speaks volumes about how far the industry still has to go to achieve real transparency.
The ruling charges advisors with the task of giving advice in their clients’ best interest. Previous, advisors who did not fall under the fiduciary standard, those selling commissionable products under a broker/dealer, only had to adhere to a suitability standard. They had to offer advice that was suitable for their clients, but could be in the advisor’s best interest. Specifically, if two suitable products were suitable for a client, but one resulted in a higher commission for the advisor, the advisor was under no legal obligation to offer the lower commissioned product.
Today, according to the DOL ruling, all advisors must act with prudence and loyalty. “Prudence” means the advice must meet the professional standard of care as defined by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). “Loyalty” means advice must be “based on the interests of the customer, rather than the competing financial interest of the adviser or firm.”
Additionally, advisors must charge no more than reasonable compensation.
They are also prohibited from making misleading statements about investment transactions, compensation, and conflicts of interest. This includes material omissions as well as material misstatements.
We spell these terms out because we believe in them. We value our fiduciary relationship with our clients. We enjoy sitting on the same side of the table with them, and we look forward to doing so for many years to come.
If you have any questions regarding the DOL ruling, which will require a little more paperwork for us and our clients but no change in our valued relationship with them, please don’t hesitate to ask.