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Practice Management > Compensation and Fees

NYC pensions and Wall Street: Another house of cards

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Recent analysis from The New York City comptroller’s office finds that five city pensions have paid $2 billion in fees to Wall Street firms in exchange for $40 million in investment returns.

Talk about bad timing; news of the “heist” broke roughly a month after the Obama Administration announced it would back the Department of Labor’s bid to implement a fiduciary rule—which of course deals with excessive fees. Pandemonium ensued, but whatever objections the industry was planning to mount are now dead on arrival. 

Coincidence? Binging on “House of Cards” has us intimately familiar with the concept of a false-flag operation, and after watching a former secretary of state muddle through a pretty serious email scandal we’re game for any theories, however paranoid. But it won’t lessen the impact.

Point-of sale-disclosure, 12b-1s, you name it; if it’s in anyway associated with fees, get ready for a tsunami of scrutiny, more so than ever before. And we haven’t even mentioned litigation, which is a whole other topic.

Independent advisors and agents have long bemoaned the guilt by association they too often endure at the hands of Wall Street shenanigans, and it’s about to reach critical mass. The fee debate is an important one, and despite sophomoric arguments to the contrary, cheaper is not always better. It isn’t greed, it’s actually the epitome of fiduciary and doing what’s best for the client which, depending on the situation, might require higher costs.

Advisors are right when they say legislators don’t understand what fiduciary really entails, and that pricing products and services too low will lessen, not increase, access to quality advice for lower-net-worth individuals. Note the irony of claiming to want to protect consumers through the implementation of a fiduciary rule when their version of the rule will most likely do the exact opposite. The road to hell is paved with obtuse politicians.

These are not fat cat bankers chomping on cigars and sipping martinis as they laugh manically at the fortunes they’ve wrought. They’re independent advisors trying to do their best for their clients and communities in which they live. Especially now, with ever-increasing volatility, media noise, the Middle East madhouse, Russia, oil prices; clients are looking for help. Wall Street scandals only makes it harder, not only due to the regulatory hammer that is destined to fall, but from understandable cynicism the investing public possess, which is now slated to increase.


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