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Regulation and Compliance > Federal Regulation > FINRA

Being Rick Ketchum

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This job affords me the opportunity to “live other lives;” to see both sides of an issue in all its selfish and selfless glory. During the Merrill Rule kerfuffle, I was simultaneously assigned to an advisor publication with staunch anti-Merrill Rule readers while at the same time with a bank advisor magazine with decidedly pro-Merrill Rule readers.  The same with Rule 151a, except that time I was paired with an insurance publication within our group to complement the advisor view.

Today, the fiduciary standard (or lack thereof) is the hot topic. The Financial Services Institute OneVoice conference in Phoenix in January featured FINRA head Richard “Rick” Ketchum, and the program’s only major applause line came when FSI reiterated its support of  FINRA as the industry’s only governing SRO. Equal fervor ignited two days later when TD Ameritrade Institutional chief Tom Bradley endorsed the SEC for the same role. Fiduciary was the theme (though unofficial) at the company’s national conference in San Diego, and the SEC’s two recent studies dominated discussion.

Bradley, who’s refreshingly direct manner stood in contrast to Ketchum’s slippery political style, made it plain, as he often does.

“We should only permit reps to provide financial advice under a fiduciary standard; period, end of story,” Bradley said. “We don’t need to change the standard. We just need to say, 'Here is the line. If you cross it, you’re held to a fiduciary standard. If you don’t cross it, then you’re not.'”

It’s clearly an issue that needs to be settled, but all indications are it will not—at least not anytime soon. Ketchum said more than once we are at the beginning of a very long process, reiterating a “kick-the-can” mentality seen on so many pressing issues these days from the so-called leaders we look to for guidance.