An article entitled "Busted" in the March 2001 issue of Investment Advisor shows how easy it is for planners and advisors to get into hot water with industry regulators, trade associations, and clients, for grievances both real and imagined. Add to this list of complainants advisors themselves, who sometimes take action against one another.
Another way you can get into big trouble is from within your own firm. Here's an example of what one advisor, who didn't wish to be identified, endured, and a new product that may have helped him had he known about it, and perhaps could help you, too.
Two principals at a planning firm in Indiana went about their respective tasks. One was busy running the company, while the other was busy skimming money from a client's account and cooking the books. The skimmer eventually got caught--she took too long fabricating a report while a client waited in an outer office--and ran off leaving her partner to the police, lawyers, and, in the partner's words, an "administrative nightmare" that isn't over yet.
"You think you know who you're working with," the wronged advisor says, "but you really don't."
Help on the Way
Perhaps the planner could have prevented the whole situation if he had used a new service from HireCheck, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based subsidiary of the First American Corporation (NYSE: FAF). The service--called PartnerCheck--is an online criminal background reporting service.
According to HireCheck, the service can be used to access public records on a roommate, friend, fianc?, coach, or any other individual in a non-employment-related relationship. Why non-employment-related? It's the law. If you want to check on an "employee," the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1987 requires that you notify and receive from the prospective hire-under-scrutiny a signed release. That's what HireCheck does: criminal background checks on employees, along with drug screening, and data relating to prior employment, education, licenses, motor vehicle records, and any other information "necessary for employers to make informed hiring decisions."
But checking-up on a partner/principal is another matter. Neither notification nor a signed release is required in this instance, notes Renee Svec, PartnerCheck's marketing manager. While what you receive from PartnerCheck is public record, it is certainly easier to have someone else do the legwork; plus the entire process is conducted online.
For an online payment of $40, the inquiring mind will receive a targeted, criminal-background report typically returned within three business days.
How does it work? PartnerCheck uses direct electronic access into courthouse data repositories and the same network of more than 2,000 field agents used by HireCheck to provide "high-quality criminal and background searches to many of the nation's largest corporations." The service offers searches for felony and major and misdemeanor criminal records in every county in the United States.
Check out HireCheck at www.hirecheck.com; and PartnerCheck at www.partnercheck.com. The First American Corporation can be found at www.firstam.com.