I concur with Mr. Money. "Fiduciary" is a legal term with hundreds of years of legal interpretation.
Efforts exist to weaken the fiduciary standard. These include ongoing failures by the SEC, by non-enforcement of various provisions of the Advisers Act, including Sect. 2015, and by not adopting a sensible view of what constitutes "solely incidental" advice when applying the broker exclusion from the definition of investment adviser. Even many 12b-1 fees are "special compensation" - i.e., asset-based "advisory fees in drag."
Other efforts exist from FINRA and several aspects of the broker-dealer community, in touting a "best interests" standard that is anything but in keeping the best interests of the CLIENT paramount. It would permit brokers to continue to advance their own best interests over those of their clients. The "casual disclosures" of conflicts of interest and lack of an informed consent requirement just cries out: "This is nothing more than suitability, re-casted in a way to mislead broker's customers to believe that they can trust their broker, and that they are not in an arms-length relationship."
While efforts have, and continue to seek, a diminution of the fiduciary standard - there are many who are fighting back. I, for one, will oppose weakening and/or redefining of the fiduciary standard, and its obfuscation through deliberate acts by SIFMA, FSI, and others.
I agree that integrity is important. Integrity is the blunt refusal to be compromised. It is doing the right thing when no one else is watching. It is a core behavior of one who adheres to the fiduciary standard, but it is not a replacement for the fiduciary standard itself.
I would also note that the fiduciary standard is not a battle between RIAs and brokers. Rather, it is a battle for the American consumer of financial and investment services. The pro-fiduciary advocates make arguments that would create many more fiduciaries, thereby weakening their own market position. But they make these arguments to benefit the American consumer, out of the firm conviction that expert, trusted advice is necessary for our fellow Americans to successfully navigate today's complex financial markets. And, the realization that the broad imposition of the fiduciary standard will not only benefit our friends and neighbors directly, but also make more efficient the allocation of capital, lead to increases in capital formation over time, and provide a significant long-term boost to the American economy, jobs, and thereby facilitate the entrepreneurship and innovation that makes our country so great.
So, while I appreciate the sentiments expressed in Brooke's article - for without integrity it is often said that a person has nothing - I do not concur that the time has come for us to abandon the fiduciary battles. These battles are important - for the future financial lives of our fellow citizens, and for the economic vitality and advancement of America itself. And for our emerging profession. Let us not abandon these efforts, even in the face of an adverse political climate. Rather, let us continue this advocacy. For what is right will, in the end, prevail, as long as we persevere.