Merrill Lynch Rule Is Harmful to Investors, RIA Survey Finds

Waterhouse poll finds support for reform and new legislation to protect investors

An overwhelming majority of registered investment advisors surveyed by TD Waterhouse this summer expressed great concern over the SEC's ruling finalizing the exemption enjoyed by broker/dealers known as the "Merrill Lynch" rule, saying the rule will be harmful to investors and will reduce investor confidence. The findings, said Tom Bradley, president of TD Waterhouse Institutional Services, makes it clear that RIAs believe "we need new legislation to govern fee-based advice." In the online survey conducted in July of RIAs, some of whom custody assets at Waterhouse, 95% of respondents agreed that the rule will be harmful to investors, 92% argued that all providers of fee-based advice should offer equal levels of protection to investors, and 88% said further reform of the B/D exemption was necessary. Moreover, 82% said they would support new Congressional legislation defining a "uniform standard of investor protection of all providers of fee-based financial advice." Bradley pointed out that while 70% of respondents believe that the "enhanced protections" offered by RIAs gives them a competitive advantage over B/Ds, they nevertheless would surrender that advantage if it meant more protection for investors.

As for TD Waterhouse itself, Bradley said Institutional currently custodies about $43 billion in advisor assets. He also said the "integration discussions" with Ameritrade on forming the new TD Ameritrade are "well under way." Ameritrade Holding announced June 22 that it would acquire TD Waterhouse USA, including the business unit that serves advisors, TD Waterhouse Institutional.

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