Given the complexities of the financial services industry, it’s often easy to win a battle but lose the war. A good example of this is the 2007 lawsuit by the Financial Planning Association to prevent the Securities and Exchange Commission from expanding the broker exemption (from a client fiduciary duty) to the 40 Act to managing client investment portfolios.
In that case, the FPA “won” in federal court and the broker exemption was not extended. However, that “victory” created the current situation in which brokers are fiduciaries when providing advice about client portfolios (such as the asset allocation).
But they are not fiduciaries when they “sell” the investments that go into those portfolios: thereby increasing client confusion about when their “advisor” is acting in their best interest, and when he/she isn’t.
In hindsight, investors probably would have been better off with the increased clarity that brokers were exempt from a fiduciary duty in all phases of their client relationships.
These days we’ve all been bombarded with reports of the 5th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals reversing the previous ruling of a federal court, concluding that the Department of Labor overstepped its authority when it created its hotly debated revisions to regulations regarding RIAs.
Although that battle isn’t over yet; many legal observers believe the case is destined to be heard by the Supreme Court.