When I go out and meet advisors on a person-by-person basis, I meet good, solid people who want to do right by their senior clients. Often, we talk in philosophical terms of their personal beliefs and how they treat their clients.
The advisors I meet, way more often than not, are really out for the best interests of those retirees who are living on a fixed income. Unfortunately, one bad apple can spoil the bunch and if there’s anything we’ve learned in the last two weeks from the Penn State scandal about morality and doing the right thing, it’s that too many people will turn a blind eye to criminal and immoral behavior to keep their own situation safe.
Should advisors do more policing of their own? From time to time I get a phone call or an email from an advisor who points me to another advisor who’s doing wrong by his clients. I always wonder in these cases if it’s a moment of sour grapes, spreading a tale about a competitor, or if there’s a legitimate concern.
It’s in those times I turn to the folks at the National Ethics Association who can help me with the necessary criminal and financial background checks on advisors to find out if there’s a fire behind the smoke. Harry J. Lew of the NEA has sent me a couple of examples of bad apples taking advantage of elderly clients.