The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards said Thursday that it has revised the terms and conditions of holding the CFP mark to include a new mandatory arbitration process.

Leo Rydzewski, CFP Board’s general counsel, announced the changes on a call with reporters at 2 p.m. Thursday, and the newly updated terms and conditions were delivered to CFP holders at 3 p.m.

The terms and conditions take effect on May 2, and “will be binding for all current and existing” CFPs, Rydzewski said.  

In updating the CFP Board terms and conditions, which Rydzewski said hadn’t been done in a decade, CFP Board concluded that arbitration “is the most appropriate forum for what amounts to a fourth level” of disciplinary review. Arbitration, he said on the call with reporters, “is private, quicker and may be less costly than litigation in court.”

According to the new terms, arbitration occurs only after there have been three levels of review of a CFP professional’s alleged conduct:

  • CFP Board Counsel’s review of the allegations of misconduct;
  • The Disciplinary and Ethics Commission’s peer review of the allegations set forth in the complaint; and
  • The Appeals Committee of the Board of Directors’ peer review of decisions by the Disciplinary and Ethics Commission.

Rydzewski said on the call that he was “not aware of any individual seeking a fourth level review” at this time.

The changes come as the CFP Board remains embroiled in a lengthy legal battle with Camarda Wealth Advisory over the firm violating CFP Board’s fee-only definition. The Camardas sued the CFP Board in federal court in 2013; they said they would appeal in August 2015 after a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia judge dismissed their case.

Rydzewski said that the Camarda case “will remain in the courts; [an] appeal was filed and that appeal is pending and it will remain in court.”

Harold Evensky, chairman of Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial, told ThinkAdvisor that while he’s not privy to “the ins and outs” of the CFP Board’s decision process, he is ”a fan of the arbitration process.” Over the years, Evensky says, ”I have served as an NASD [precursor to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority] and AAA arbitrator as well as having served as an expert witness in arbitration cases for both claimants and respondents. My experience in most cases has been very favorable.”

As the CFP Board’s new terms and conditions state, “While litigation may take years to conclude, the revised Terms require the arbitration process to be completed within nine months.”

— Check out CFP Board to Update Professional Conduct Standards on ThinkAdvisor.