If you receive an award notice from the Consumers’ Research Council of America, don’t take the honor lightly.
It isn’t the responsibility that comes with the award that should give you pause: This isn’t the financial planners’ equivalent of the Miss America Pageant, where the winner has to assume a laundry list of responsibilities and make public appearances on behalf of the organization.
It’s the legitimacy of the award and its sponsoring organization that’s the problem. If you get the award letter, you can proudly proclaim yourself one of “America’s Top Financial Planners,” as recognized by the Consumers’ Research Council of America, but don’t accept the award without preparing yourself to answer questions about what the award really means.
Forbes first exposed the Consumers’ Research Council of America in 2009 in an extensive investigation piece. They discovered that the council sends award letters to financial planners, asking them to purchase an award plaque that costs up to $243. But the criteria the council uses to select award recipients are amorphous at best and certainly don’t, by themselves, indicate “top” status, and being among the countless financial planners qualify for the award is less of an honor than it appears at first glance.
Forbes found that the award is bestowed on financial planners, regardless of disciplinary history and their actual prestige in the industry. In fact, some recipients are not even financial planners, brokers or financial advisors. A writer for CBS MoneyWatch was even able to register his dog for the award.
The provenance of the council itself is also questionable. It lists its address as being on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. But the address—just down the street from the White House—is just a mailbox at a UPS store. Consumers’ Research Institute does not have offices at the location. And neither Consumers’ Research Council of America, nor its parent company, SLD Industries, is registered as a nonprofit with the IRS.