FINRA is once again warning advisors with securities licenses that using ghostwritten communication materials may violate NASD Rule 2210.

The issue arises when advisors purchase the rights to place their names on books, pamphlets or articles. FINRA warns of two other problematic scenarios. In the first, an advisor participates in a broadcast or webcast interview that mimics an actual news program. However, unlike a real news program, the interview’s content is scripted. In the second, an advisor distributes magazines containing an article with their byline. Despite the byline, the advisor played no part in authoring the content.

The problem with using ghostwritten material? It may violate FINRA’s principles of fair dealing and good faith. According to Rule 2210, reps must not engage in misleading or exaggerated public communications. Plus they must not omit any material facts or qualifications that would render a communication misleading.

Should you swear off using ghosted materials? Not necessarily. According to FINRA, as long as the piece indicates a vendor wrote it or that the material was developed for your use, you should be on firm ground. Furthermore, if you pay to be featured in an article or broadcast, clearly label the content as an advertisement.

FINRA also reminds advisors not to use any title or designation that falsely conveys expertise in senior investments or retirement planning.

In today’s post-Madoff environment, consumers don’t look kindly on advisors who take shortcuts to credibility. Play it safe … do your own writing (or clearly label ghosted material) and earn legitimate credentials. Why jeopardize your reputation with pale imitations of excellence?