Tamar Frankel: Fiduciary Advocate Who Leads by Teaching—Top Women Extended Profile

BU law professor tells AdvisorOne she hopes investors will lead the change in brokers' fiduciary habits

Boston University Law Professor Tamar Frankel has written and taught on such topics as mutual funds, securitization, financial system regulation and corporate governance, but she is perhaps most revered for her teachings on, and knowledge of, fiduciary law, so much so that the Committee for the Fiduciary Standard recently named its annual fiduciary award after her.

A long-term member of the Boston University School of Law faculty, Frankel was a visiting scholar at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from 1995-1997, and at the Brookings Institution in 1987. A native of Israel, Frankel served as an attorney in the legal department of the Israeli Air Force, an assistant attorney general for Israel’s Ministry of Justice and the legal advisor of the State of Israel Bonds Organization in Europe.

tamar frankelWhen asked by AdvisorOne what she believed her greatest career achievement has been over the past year, Frankel said in a July 7 email message that it has been her strides to push Congress to impose a fiduciary duty on broker-dealers, as Dodd-Frank gives the SEC the authority to do.  However, imposing a fiduciary duty on brokers “is not a simple mission,” she says, and it “will take time and education to achieve.”

Frankel says that she believes simply providing disclosures and educating investors “may not be enough when [investors] deal with people who are far more experienced and knowledgeable” than they are. Advisors and brokers “who give investors advice in one form or another ought to be trustworthy to advise for the sole benefit of the investors,” she says. “When they say: ‘Trust me,’ they have to be trustworthy.”

As the SEC launches into crafting a fiduciary duty rule later this month, Frankel says that her concern is that a rule alone “cannot effect change by a mere threat of enforcement.” Habits, she continues, “are strong and cultural habits and leadership that fight off change make [rules] even weaker.”

Her hope, she says, is that “investors will teach and lead the change in the brokers’ culture.” Investors “must avoid asking brokers WHAT IS BEING SOLD and how much they will gain.” Instead, she says, “investors should ask WHO IS SELLING TO THEM. They must find out whether the sales people are in reality--not theory--their fiduciaries, and only then accept the salespersons’ advice.”

Frankel says she mentors both current and past, and admits that her younger counterparts keep her up to speed on current events. “Those who ask my advice bring me with them to changing times,” she says. “I am grateful to them.”

Besides teaching and lecturing at Oxford University, Tokyo University, Harvard Law School, Harvard Business School, University of California Law School, Berkeley and consulted with the People’s Bank of China, Frankel has published more than 60 articles and book chapters, and has co-chaired for more than 10 years the ALI-ABA Investment Management Advanced Course.

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