Do Brokers Owe a Fiduciary Duty to Clients?

An article published this week in Slate talks about how despite what many might think, brokers in fact do not owe clients a fiduciary duty to give them the best advice possible. This could very well explain why some brokers don’t believe they are really crossing the line-or, at the very least, that they can get away with it-when giving advice that isn’t necessarily bad but doesn’t take into account a client’s best interests.

In the olden days, giving a broker this much leeway made more sense. Brokers were there to sell or buy bonds and stocks and it was the investment adviser whose job it was (and still is) to give advice about financial goals and investment strategy. The latter is already upheld to a fiduciary standard requiring that he/she act in a customer’s best interests without regard to personal interest.

Now, however, the distinction between investment advisers and brokers has gotten blurrier. Brokers also now give advice and investment advisers also buy for clients the securities that they’ve recommended.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is now recommend a common fiduciary standard that would apply to both brokers and investment advisers. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act gave the SEC the power to set up a uniform fiduciary standard, which would hold brokers much more accountable than the current “suitability standard” that they must meet. Under the suitability standard, a broker can meet the standard just by recommending a suitable financial product to the investor even if it isn’t the best one for that client.

With the current lack of a fiduciary standard for brokers, it is the investor who suffers when sustaining losses because of investing in a product that was recommended but not necessarily the most suitable. This lack of standard can also negatively impact how much a broker fraud victim can recover in arbitration or in court. For many investors, not being able to recoup their losses can mean the loss of their life savings, no early retirement, a decreased standard of living, and other consequences.

Related Web Resources:
Does Your Broker Love You?, Slate, Monday, January 24, 2011
SEC Recommends Common Standard for Brokers, Advisers, BusinessWeek, January 22, 2011
Study on Investment Advisers and Broker Dealers, SEC, January 11, 2011 (PDF)

Most Investors Want Fiduciary Standard for Investment Advisers and Broker-Dealers, Say Trade Groups to SEC, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 12, 2010
Contact our stockbroker fraud law firm today.

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