Skip to main content


Representing Individual, High Net Worth & Institutional Investors

Office in Indiana


Home > Blog > Debate Over Fiduciary, Suitability Standards Heats Up

Debate Over Fiduciary, Suitability Standards Heats Up

Financial reform is a hot topic on Capitol Hill, with legislation designed to rein in broker/dealers through new oversight measures currently being contested on the Senate floor. At the heart of the debate is a bill containing a provision to strengthen the protection of consumers by requiring stock brokers and insurance agents to act in the best interest of their clients. As it turns out, the provision may never see the light of day.

As reported March 8 by the Washington Post, certain Senators are in disagreement over the provision, prompting some insiders to predict that new legislative language will ultimately be inserted into the bill that directs the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to study the rules currently governing brokers and registered investment advisers.

As it is, investment advisers operate under fiduciary standards. That means they are legally and ethically bound to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own. By comparison, brokers adhere to suitability standards, meaning they only need to have “reasonable grounds” to believe that the financial products they recommend to clients are suitable for their needs. In some instances, however, those investments could be lucrative for the broker at the expense of clients.

In addition, broker/dealers usually do not have to make as many disclosures regarding conflicts of interest, fees or previous infractions as investment advisers.

And therein is the problem. The services that broker/dealers and investment advisers provide are almost indistinguishable. Case in point: In 2008, the SEC commissioned a study by the Rand Corp., which showed that investors were equally confused about the differences between the two groups.

It would seem commonsense that investment advisers, broker/dealers and any and all financial professionals connected in some way to investment-related services and products should be subject to a consistent, uniform fiduciary standard. The operative word, however, is commonsense.

Comments are closed.

« Back to Blog

Top of Page