The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards has revised its terms and conditions so that advisor arbitraton results will be made public. The Board will have the right to name the advisor if the advisor talks publicly about the case; otherwise, the cases will be anonymized.
The new revisions, announced Thursday, become effective on Sept. 12.
The new terms state: “In the event that I publicly disclose facts relating to the arbitration, CFP Board shall have the right to publicly disclose facts relating to the arbitration, including information which otherwise may be private or confidential under CFP Board’s Standards and Policies. In any event, CFP Board shall make a public report about the result of the arbitration that, without disclosing my identity, states who prevailed in the arbitration, and identifies the nature of the dispute including facts relating to the arbitration.”
Michael Kitces, director of wealth management and partner of the Pinnacle Advisory Group, said the new changes announced Thursday are twofold: First, CFP Board will provide an anonymized summary of any and all arbitrations that occur, with private details remaining private; and second, if after an arbitration, the CFP certificant decides to go public with the results and not keep them private, the CFP Board is released from its obligation of privacy and can further discuss the details openly.
In March, CFP Board revised its Terms and Conditions of Certification and License to state that all disputes between CFP certificants and the CFP Board had to be taken to mandatory arbitration, rather than a court of law. Those terms became effective in May.
The Board received pushback on its decision to keep arbitration results private.
Indeed, Kitces, author of the Nerd’s Eye View blog, said in a March blog posting that while arbitration “will be a less expensive and a more expedient path in many (or even most) cases, … the CFP Board’s arbitration requirement that keeps the outcome confidential (even if ruled against the CFP Board), coupled with a separate (and already existing) rule that limits any CFP Board liability to no more than $1,000 (plus legal fees), effectively means the CFP Board has remarkably little accountability or transparency whatsoever in any dispute (or worse, a series of disputes) with CFP certificants.” In reaction to the changes announced Thursday, Kitces told ThinkAdvisor Friday that “to require mandatory arbitration and not provide any way for the results to be public is a serious danger to organizational accountability. So I’m very happy to see that the CFP Board listened to at least some of the feedback.”
However, “it’s notable that the CFP Board did NOT limit the scope of the mandatory arbitration clause,” Kitces says. “While it was originally proclaimed to be a way for certificants who objected to their disciplinary outcome to have a final form of appeal (rather than the public court case the CFP Board is now fighting with [Florida-based advisors Jeff and Kim Camarda]), the CFP Board has refused to make the mandatory arbitration clause ONLY about appealing disciplinary rulings.”
The changes to arbitration 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 judge dismissed their case.
The Camardas, who’ve been battling with the CFP Board over how they disclose their compensation will get their day in court on Sept. 7, when a District of Columbia appeals court will hear oral arguments in their case to appeal the earlier decision.