In 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission published a study, mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act, which concluded that all financial advisers and stock brokers should be placed under “a uniform fiduciary standard.” Basically this meant that brokers and advisers would have an obligation to put the interests of clients first and must disclose any conflicts of interest that might compromise that duty.
Wall Street was none too happy about this. The industry spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying to prevent this standard from becoming the law of the land. Indeed, of all the regulatory reforms that have come out of Dodd-Frank, nothing seems to displease the financial industry more than the proposed fiduciary rules.
Although other reforms may be inconvenient and clunky, the proposed rules probably would cut Wall Street’s fees, potentially by a lot. This is a radical change from the current rules, which allow a universe of products, costs and behaviors that history teaches us are contrary to the client’s best interest.
The jousting over standards comes amid the awful results that investors have had in their tax-deferred retirement accounts. As too many studies have confirmed (see this and this), the typical 401(k) or individual retirement account investor barely earns 2 percent a year on their savings. In the years since the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Erisa) rules went into effect in the 1970s, the average portfolio with a 60-40 split of stocks and bonds should have returned almost four times that much.
Although poor investor decisions are part of the problem — chasing hot money managers, jumping in and out of funds, trying to time the market — high fees associated with conflicted advice have also been a persistent drag on returns.
Originally : Brokers Who Work for Investors