The investor advocacy bar association PIABA (the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association) has recently issued a report called “Major Investor Losses Due to Conflicted Advice: Brokerage Industry Advertising Creates the Illusion of Fiduciary Duty.” The PIABA report argues that the brokerage industry uses false advertising to convey to investors that the firms have a fiduciary duty to their clients only then to do a 180 turn when sued to claim that no such duty exists.
According to the report, some of the largest firms in the United States are falsely advertise in this fashion including Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Fidelity, Ameriprise, Allstate Financial, Berthel Fisher, and Charles Schwab. The report claimed that all of these firms “advertise in a fashion that is designed to lull investors into the belief that they are being offered the services of a fiduciary.”
In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, the Dodd-Frank legislation authorized the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to pass a fiduciary duty rule that would apply to brokers, as opposed to only financial advisors. Most investors do not realize and are usually shocked to learn that there broker only has an obligation to recommend “suitable” investments, and not to work in their client’s best interests. Currently, the fiduciary duty rule only applies to financial advisors (and brokers under certain circumstances).