The Insured Retirement Institute, the variable annuity trade group formerly known as NAVA, praised on December 4 SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro’s public call for a VA summary prospectus, which IRI President and CEO Cathy Weatherford said in a prepared statement was “long overdue and much anticipated.”
Schapiro called for the VA summary prospectus in a speech December 3 before the Consumer Federation of America in which she notably said, “We need to have a strong fiduciary standard for all securities professionals,” and that “all investors receiving advice should rest assured that the advice they get is being given with their interest at heart,” and that “to be effective, the fiduciary duty needs to be meaningful and uniform across all securities professionals. It cannot be weakened or diluted just so that it can be applied broadly.”
Making her case that retail investors “should be provided clear, simple, meaningful disclosure at the time they are making an investment decision–disclosure that includes comprehensible and comparable information about the securities products and services being offered,” Schapiro also argued that said disclosure “should include information about the compensation the professional will receive on each product being sold–and information about the conflicts that may be causing the advisor or salesman to steer the investor to a certain investment.”
Admitting that taking such an approach might be “difficult,” Schapiro said the SEC would however task, “not be deterred by the complexity of the product,” and used variable annuities as the example, since VAs, she said, “are widely regarded as one of the most difficult-to-understand products on the market.” That is when she disclosed that SEC staff is “developing a simplified “summary prospectus” for variable annuities.
In its statement voicing approval for the move, IRI said the proposed changed would “provide consumers with key information in a clear, concise, and standardized format that would facilitate and encourage comparison shopping,” and help to reduce the significant costs and other burdens associated with delivering a printed statutory prospectus.”
The SEC mandated a similar summary prospectus for all mutual funds; the deadline for fund companies to comply is January 1, 2010.