The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards’ website, LetsMakeAPlan.org — where investors can look for advisors — omits client complaints about CFPs, as well as planners’ criminal or regulatory problems, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis published Monday.
The Journal article states that LetsMakeAPlan.org gives no indication “that thousands of the planners bearing the board’s seal of approval have had customer complaints or faced criminal or regulatory problems — often directly related to their work with clients.”
More than 60 have filed for bankruptcy within the past decade although the website says they haven’t disclosed such an event in the last 10 years, the Journal reported.
The LetsMakeAPlan.org site “has been presenting more than 6,300 planners without showing such problems even though the planners have disclosed them to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority,” according to the Journal analysis of more than 72,000 profiles on the website.
The paper reports that it compared data on the LetsMakeAPlan.org site against records kept by FINRA, the self-regulator of broker-dealers.
Of the planners flagged by the Journal, “more than 5,000 have faced formal complaints from their clients over investment recommendations or sales practices, and hundreds have been disciplined by financial regulators or left brokerage firms amid allegations of misconduct. At least 140 faced or currently face felony charges, including one who pleaded no contest to a charge of possessing child pornography.”
CFP Board CEO Kevin Keller was quick to respond to the Journal article, stating on LinkedIn that while the Board appreciates the Journal’s “detailed analysis,” the group is “addressing the issues raised in the article and will continue to look for ways to improve.”
Keller stated that as the CFP Board implements its new Code and Standards, which go into effect on Oct. 1, “we will continue to evolve our enforcement efforts to uphold the standards we’re setting for the benefit of the public.”
Keller balked, however, with several themes in the Journal article. Specifically, he said the group disagrees with the Journal’s comparison of it and FINRA, call for it to publicize allegations without conducting prior review through its disciplinary process and demand that all bankruptcies should be publicized on its website.
The executive also pointed to a more in-depth reaction to the Journal article on the CFP Board website.
Keller argues in the statement that “there is a fundamental difference between our approach and that of FINRA, to which we are directly compared to” by the Journal.
Also, the CFP Board now reviews FINRA’s BrokerCheck or the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure database when a CFP professional renews his or her certification, according to the statement, and it “also made adjustments to the ‘Verify’ section of LetsMakeaPlan.org so that the site now points consumers to BrokerCheck and IAPD for more information.”
Added Keller: “We will continue to evaluate what, if any, additional information should be included on the site.”