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The SEC Brings Investment Advisor Info To The Web

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The SEC Brings Investment Advisor Info To The Web


A new Web site offered by the Securities and Exchange Commission and state regulators is aimed at making information about investment advisors more accessible to consumers.

The site–www.–makes it possible for a consumer to access over 9,000 annual filings from investment advisors. The filings include 7,300 advisors registered with the SEC and 1,700 advisors registered with state securities departments.

The Web page will add on more advisors over time, according to Ashley Baker, a spokesman with the National American Securities Administrators Association in Washington, D.C. All but four states are either planning or considering making it mandatory to register through the electronic investment advisor registration depository.

Eventually, information on that database, with the exception of items such as an advisor’s Social Security number, will be available on the SEC’s site, says John Viator, NASAA associate counsel.

Prior to the Web site’s implementation, interested consumers had to work through a SEC public reference branch in order to obtain the same information that they can now access for free on the site, says John Heine, a SEC spokesman.

On Tuesday, Sept. 25, for example, 1,165 consumers visited the site and 3,075 hits were reported by lunchtime on Sept. 26 following press reports on the new site.

The filings those viewers were able to look at contain general information about the firm, more specific information on fees, commissions and assets under management as well as the number of clients and a general profile of the firm’s client base. The filings also include information about relationships with lawyers, accountants and other professionals, such as an insurance company or agency and questions about penalties and legal infractions.

Barbara Roper, a consumer advocate representing the Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C., says information available on the site can be valuable if a consumer reads the explanations in the filing’s schedules.

In the past, according to Roper, in just over half of the cases the CFA looked at, a number of firms that accept commissions did not check off commissions as a source of revenue. The reason, she says, is that a firm cannot accept commissions although members of that firm could and did accept commissions.

She cites this as one reason consumers should read the filings with care.

William Scher, senior vice president and general counsel with the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors in Falls Church, Va., cites the public benefit of consumer access, but notes that some advisors fall under registration exceptions and others, like insurance agents, do not sell securities and do not register. Agents who do not file electronically are also excluded, he adds.

Word of mouth and recommendations are just two ways to find an advisor, he adds. Other sources of advisors are state insurance departments and the National Association of Securities Dealers, Scher adds.

“If this is a tool used to check for selecting an advisor, it could be useful,” he says.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, October 1, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.

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