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The process of picking a co-fiduciary

August 16, 2009

By definition, prudence involves the exercise of skill and good judgment in the use of resources. It is a core fiduciary duty. Consistent with the stature of fiduciary obligations as the highest known to law, fiduciaries are expected to ensure...

It's time to rethink retirement plans

July 12, 2009

An investment fiduciary's duty of loyalty demands that the investor's best interests guide the decision-making process. Moreover, close attention must be paid to the consequences of decisions, and corrective action must be taken if those decisions...

SEC's Aguilar urges fiduciary standard

June 7, 2009

In my last Fiduciary Corner column, I wrote about the significant benefits that would result if, as a result of regulatory reform, all who provide financial advice — including broker-dealer representatives — are held to the fiduciary standard...

How a 'universal' fiduciary standard would change how financial advisers do business

May 10, 2009

Some time ago, a reporter asked me a simple yet profound question: “If everyone providing investment advice were held to a fiduciary standard of care, how would things be different than they are today?” Before the financial crisis, the reporter's...

For fiduciaries, loyalty is everything

April 12, 2009

Woodrow Wilson may have been right when he said, "Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice." Fiduciaries owe a duty of loyalty to the beneficiaries they serve. But frequently, they find their...

Time to embrace fiduciary standard

March 15, 2009

A consensus is forming that financial regulatory reform should include provisions to require anyone providing advice to adhere to a fiduciary standard of care. The Washington-based North American Securities Administrators Association has recommended...

Don’t dance around principles

February 15, 2009

I want to offer four reasons why the Department of Labor should rescind a class exemption that would allow conflicted advisers to offer advice to retirement plans under certain circumstances. Before outlining my arguments, let me provide some...

What we can learn from Madoff

January 18, 2009

Bernard Madoff was able to pull off what is allegedly the largest investor fraud in history because people trusted him. But why did people believe his lies when there were so many reasons not to? It was the skeptics who spotted Mr. Madoff's...

Give clients the confidence they need

December 7, 2008

The end of each year is a time of reflection and anticipation. From a financial perspective, this has been a year when people have had their confidence shaken to the core. Most are nervous about their employment situation, investments, credit...

Maintaining standards in unusual times

November 2, 2008

By now, even the most ardent advocates of asset allocation have to be asking themselves whether they should just go to cash and wait for saner times. I have to admit that in more than 25 years in the financial services business, I have never...

Congress abdicates its fiduciary duty

October 5, 2008

Public officials in all branches of government have a fiduciary duty to the citizens of the United States. That is the proper context for how we should judge the decision making by our elected and appointed officials in everything they do. The...

Can brokers be fiduciaries?

September 8, 2008

Judging by newly proposed regulations on investment advice, it looks as if the Department of Labor is trying hard to engineer a sharp turn from the course established by Congress. On Aug. 22, the Labor Department released its long-awaited guidance...

First, do no intentional harm

August 11, 2008

Providing financial advice is similar to providing medical advice in that there is inherent uncertainty about whether recommended actions will achieve the desired results. In medicine, the term "iatrogenic injury" refers to situations in which...

Are best practices enough?

July 14, 2008

In casual conversation about the troubled financial markets, the words "risk" and "uncertainty" often are treated as synonyms. But for the fiduciary, there must be no confusion about their very different meanings. Risk may be defined as variability...

A warning light for fiduciaries

June 9, 2008

If there were a color-coded advisory system for fiduciaries, it now would stand at yellow, flashing “elevated risk.” Economic, regulatory and legal circumstances are converging to raise the likelihood of litigation. Investors are seeing financial...

A duty to monitor proxy voting

May 12, 2008

Upon the conclusion of a talk about achieving fiduciary excellence that I delivered April 28 at the Mountain States Public Employee Retirement Systems Forum in Denver, and sponsored by the Investment Management Network LLC of New York, an attendee...

Paulson's plan forgot the investors

April 14, 2008

On March 31, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson released the Treasury's "Blueprint for a Modernized Financial Regulatory Structure." The report was prepared over the course of the past year and isn't some hastily drafted response to the credit...

DOL proposes full disclosure plan

March 17, 2008

Ambrose Bierce, the famous American journalist, defined the word "oath" as a "solemn appeal to the deity, made binding upon the conscience by a penalty for perjury." Providers of services to employee benefit plans governed by the Employee Retirement...

Lessons from a French scandal

February 18, 2008

The French really are different. Consider how the United States would have dealt with Jérôme Kerviel, the 31-year-old trader at Société Générale who managed to lose more than $7 billion through unauthorized trades in stock index futures....

Plan sponsors are avoiding a safe harbor

January 21, 2008

Upon implementation of the Pension Protection Act one year ago, sponsors of 401(k) plans gained the opportunity to limit their liability for advice given to participants under eligible investment advice arrangements. But I have yet to see a...

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