It’s about 12 degrees outside, with four inches of snow on the ground. I sitting at my kitchen table, looking out the window at a clear blue sky with snow dusting the Pinion Pines that cover the hills between here and the snow capped mountains in the background. With the end of the year quietly sneaking up on us, it’s a setting that makes reflection impossible to resist.
To further stimulate my mind, James Holland kindly posted the following comment to November 29 blog, A BD Rep Surveys His Clients: The Fiduciary Issue Crystallized:
Bob, could not agree with you more. At some point the investors and plan sponsors are going to have to look in the mirror and say: ‘Now is the time for me to take some responsibility here and understand what my options are and who has my best interest first and foremost.”
In addition to his captivating “Bob, could not not agree with you more…” preamble, Mr. Holland raises this vital question: Just what can retail investors and other laypersons reasonably be responsible for knowing versus what knowledge is just too “inside baseball” for them to be expected to fully understand, regardless of how much “information” they are given on the subject?
This question, of course, is the basis of professional ethics in all fields: Professionals are restricted from using the advantage of their expert knowledge on a topic that is vitally important to the public for their own benefit to the detriment of their clients or patients. It’s what takes professional standards out of the realm of the customary business practices based on the principle of fair dealing between two equal parties: When a layperson is consulting a professional, the parties are not equal.