From the June 2010 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Disclaimers

Have you noticed that as the baby boom generation ages, the advertising we see on television changes along with them? Think back to those golden days of yesteryear when our bellies were flat and most of our body hair was on our head. Remember pedaling your Schwinn home from the malt shop to watch the big game. Remember the smell of Dad barbequing burgers for the game? Remember between innings watching all the commercials for erectile dysfunction drugs?

What kind of hell are we putting our kids through these days? I don't know about you, but I can't think of much worse than being in the same room as my Dad and hearing the words "erectile dysfunction." Yes, I think that would have cleared the room back in the early years of the Miller family. Today, it is used as a weapon to bludgeon poor Dad. "Hey guys, Dad's commercial is on!"

As I continue to analyze many of these ads, I can't help but think that maybe the financial services industry can learn something from our friends in the pharmaceutical industry. If you watch any of the wonder drug ads for the dreaded ED, myelofibrosis or shaky leg syndrome you'll notice two distinct parts of the ad.

In the beginning, the ads are warm and fuzzy feeling. Lovely soft music plays, with families happily romping in flower-filled meadows. In the second half of the ad, you still see the family romping; only now the music fades and you hear very fast voiceover whipping through every possible thing that could go wrong if you take the wonder drug.

"...some patients may experience nausea, headaches and projectile vomiting. Others report instances of blindness, depression and in rare cases... spontaneous combustion."

I'm assuming that even with all the horrible disclaimers, these ads work. I guess if your legs are shaking long enough you'll try anything. My point here is that no matter what the disclaimer says, people will sign off on it if the potential is there for a big payoff.

The financial regulatory agencies are already flirting with disclaimers. Think of the VA switch letters we're all having our clients sign. Think of the oil and gas drilling private placements. As long as the phrase, "Nothing is guaranteed and you could lose all your marbles" is in there somewhere, you can say just about anything you want.

What I am proposing, in an effort to reduce financial advisor litigation, is that you implement an office disclaimer for you and your staff. Imagine a new client walking into your office for the first time. He or she is ushered into your tastefully decorated conference/theater room where they see your very own office movie.

As Kenny G music softly drifts through the room, images of happy, frolicking families abound. James Earl Jones is narrating a script about how great you are. You see the family riding on Jet Skis, lounging on beaches and climbing Everest. Yes, all things are possible if they invest with you.

After a few moments of financial bliss, Kenny G fades out and James Earl Jones picks up the pace...

"...some clients may experience catastrophic losses, IRS audits and an overall feeling of despair. Other clients report instances of blindness, depression and in rare cases... spontaneous combustion."

Your movie would then end with more Kenny G, a happy- go-lucky James E and a montage of cute puppies. Have your clients sign the disclaimer while the warm glow of puppies is still fresh in their minds. By implementing this simple step, the Practice Management Institute of America estimates financial advisor litigation will drop to near zero.

Finally, your clients can worry about the important things in life like ED, myelofibrosis and shaky leg syndrome.

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