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Investment Adviser or Stockbroker? There is a Difference!

by Brian Mahany

Most people do not know the difference between a registered investment adviser and a stockbroker. In fact, most people don’t know even know the title of the person they rely on for their investment advice. As long as they receive solid advice, customers remain quite content. There is a big difference, however.

Investment advisers are legally held to a much higher standard. They are considered fiduciaries meaning they must put your interests first. Brokers, however, only have a duty to recommend suitable investments in line with your goals.

At first, that sounds like the same thing. It’s not. Stockbrokers can recommend a stock that benefits them commission wise as long as what they recommend is suitable.

The SEC recommended earlier this year that both investment advisers and stockbrokers be held to a fiduciary standard but the recommendations are neither binding nor unanimous. Two of the five commission members say more study is needed.

The U.S. Department of Labor also gets a say pursuant to the federal ERISA laws. DOL has recommended that anyone making recommendations for retirement accounts be held to a fiduciary standard.

It all sounds confusing but just remember, for the foreseeable future only investment advisers are held to the higher standard. Should you leave your broker and seek an investment adviser? If you are happy with the service and results you receive, no.

Investors using a broker dealer to manage their account should ask some questions, however. First, ask if they are acting as a fiduciary. If they say yes, ask them to put that in writing. Also ask brokers to disclose any conflicts of interest they may have with the investment they are recommending. Ask that they disclose all commissions, hidden fees and other compensation they will receive as a result of the transaction.

If you lose money through the actions of any type of financial professional, speak to a securities lawyer. All advisers have some duty to their client to know and understand their client’s finances and risk tolerance before making recommendations. All types of advisers also always have a duty to only recommend suitable investments.

Mahany & Ertl is a full service boutique law firm that helps victims of fraud reclaim their money. We can help with stockbroker claims, FINRA arbitrations, claims against investment advisers and even claims against accountants, financial planners and lawyers. Call Brian Mahany for a no obligation, no nonsense consultation today. Brian can be reached at (414) 704-6731 (direct dial).

Mahany & Ertl, LLC – Investment Fraud, Bank Fraud & Professional Malpractice Lawyers. Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit (Birmingham) Michigan & Portland, Maine. Services performed nationwide.

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