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RIA Compliance

The past two years have been some of the most momentous in the relatively short history of the RIA profession. Legislators and regulators have been gradually embracing the fiduciary standard, though whether it will fully apply to everyone calling themselves advisors remains to be seen.

The Department of Labor’s crusade to lower costs and increase transparency in retirement plans means a spate of new regulations affecting advisors and brokers in that market. Dodd-Frank Financial Reform, meanwhile, continues to unroll across the profession, with the biggest change being a shift to state oversight of RIAs with less than $100 million AUM. In this section, you’ll find continually updated RIABiz.com coverage on all these topics.


Larry Fink: It's just a number.

After record AUM high, BlackRock chairman and CEO Larry Fink brushes off a milestone • SchwabSchwab hits records; Wall Street wants more • Mutual fund giant's ETF conversion yields bragging rights • Regulation Best Interest headaches unnecessary, despite SEC brouhaha, lawyers say • Workplace scheme wins big for Fidelity.

Friday, January 21, 2022 – 3:16 AM by Oisin Breen

BlackRock's AUM tops $10 trillion -- "It's just a number," says CEO Larry Fink with likely a nod and a wink.

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Ari Sonneberg: 'Why [did] the punishment stop short of a penalty with real teeth that would objectively prevent this from recurring?'

Federal regulators allowed McKinsey to settle without admitting insider trading violations for its in-house RIA but censured the firm and ordered it to 'cease and desist' from future violations.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021 – 11:54 PM by Oisin Breen

Brooke's Note: The easiest way for an RIA to get in trouble with the SEC is to make a compliance plan and then not follow it. McKinsey Investment Office Partners did not make that mistake. When it came to addressing the fact that the $31-billion RIA had ...

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Eric Clarke: There’s not one feature of [BasisCode's] platform that an RIA doesn’t need or use.

Orion CEO Eric Clarke purchase builds on a strategy of developing a data capability that helps his firm keep RIAs compliant and win enterprise deals head-to-head against Envestnet-Yodlee.

Saturday, November 13, 2021 – 3:38 AM by Oisin Breen

Brooke's Note: It's almost hard to name a successful software company today that isn't succeeding because it has great sources of data and the ability to spin that straw into gold. Nobody in the RIA business has it nailed. Envestnet bought a big, fancy asset ...

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Gary Gensler: There’s a reason why the ’33 Act was called the Truth in Securities Law.

Thousands of clients may be getting lost in the shuffle in the face of strong inorganic RIA growth -- an obscure problem until federal regulators gave Regal Investment Advisors the royal treatment, in part, for charging full fees and failing to disclose reduced service.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021 – 7:39 PM by Oisin Breen

Brooke's Note: One reason people don't like doing business with large corporations is that so much can slip between the cracks. Consumers end up becoming their own watchdog. The giant cracks at wirehouses allowed the RIA business to spring up starting in the early 1990s. But now, the ...

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Michael Kitces: "If you're going to be a hybrid broker/advisor, you can't market that you're an advisor - and then swerve into being a broker."

The XPYN founder wants the SEC to honor its 'Merrill Lynch Rule' promise from 15 years ago, demanding the most fundamental truth in advertising.

Friday, October 1, 2021 – 10:33 PM by Lisa Shider

Michael Kitces is challenging federal regulators to out nerd him by demanding closure of a long-recognized loophole that could throw for a loop the world of financial product commission sales.

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Rick Fleming: 'While these typically were characterized as efforts to “modernize” or “streamline” regulations, they often had the effect of diminishing investor protections.'

The federal regulator did Wall Street's bidding and lost its compass, according to a damning Securities and Exchange Commission document.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020 – 2:07 AM by Brooke Southall

The federal agency responsible for acting as a watchdog over stock markets allowed market manipulators and stonewalling corporations tremendous leeway to abuse their faith and their cash to their own ends then couch it as advancement.

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David Mannaioni: Many clients in passive portfolios still bailed on the market in the COVID decline this spring only to miss out on the recovery this summer.

After Covid-19 chased investors out of the market at the exact wrong time, the Kaplan-owned company made its move to advance managing emotions as a sanctioned skill in financial planning -- despite too many letters in the alphabet soup already

Wednesday, November 25, 2020 – 1:40 AM by Lisa Shidler

Brooke's Note: We've come to this: The financial advice industry will now have an accredited course of instruction aimed at teaching advisors how to advise clients to accept their financial advice. Yes, allow yourself a chuckle for that inherent admission about just how futile the ...

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Baiju Bhatt (left) and Vladimir Tenev (right) founded Robinhood in 2013. Now the firm's DIY model is challenged by a suit alleging its duty of care is not just skin deep.

Three Florida firms sue claiming (IPO bound, Bloomberg reports) Robinhood allegedly failed to direct self-directed investors -- a claim that is both legally shaky, and potentially serious, experts say.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 – 4:54 AM by Oisin Breen

Brooke's Note: There are lots of things you can disclaim but still get sued over. Ski resort operators and tobacco companies know this. But does that mean a broker who claims no due care to investors can be sued when it shows that it really means ...

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Brian Hamburger: Cutting out free lunches doesn't end the conflicts.

In a world where RIAs often accept lunches from a wholesalers, the New York wirehouse's out-of-the-blue change of heart has the lawyer saying it looks more like a way of bolstering its position as the intermediary

Thursday, September 10, 2020 – 3:33 AM by Lisa Shidler

Brooke's Note: When you're big, powerful and well-branded the game is always about perception. Free lunches can be perceived badly. Merrill Lynch itself uses the word "perception" to explain its abrupt but belated decision to find that such a perception exists. The timing and explanation ...

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Aron Szapiro: The Department of Labor’s approach is out of step.

The Department of Labor good-is-bad rulemaking clashes with the take of most Americans in 2020, who don't buy its investing logic, legal theory or take on humanity.

Thursday, August 20, 2020 – 10:32 PM by Brooke Southall

Brooke's Note: The DOL could theoretically make a good case for banning ESG filters from the pension, DC and DB assets that it oversees. Namely, it could say squishy beliefs have no place in long- or short-term investment portfolios. Let the market be the market. The problem is the ...

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Clara Shih: It’s about being able to connect with the CRM system of record.

The CEO of the San Francisco robo-content curator already dominates market share, but now Hearsay is hoping CRM advisor data will make its robotics simulate human online interaction more convincingly.

Thursday, August 13, 2020 – 2:44 AM by Oisin Breen

Projecting market power, Clara Shih got Salesforce to supply her firm, Hearsay Systems, with a pile of cash and its trove of advisor data, but competitors say the deal reveals Hearsay's vulnerability as much as its strength.

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Jason Roberts: The penalties are set in stone.

Right now, most RIAs recommend IRA rollovers without having to jump through a lot of hoops, but DOL's 'exemption' makes a federal case out of suggesting the move away from the protection of the employer’s plan

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 – 7:21 PM by Jason Roberts, Guest Columnist

Brooke's Note: After we published Lisa Shidler's article last week about the new DOL rule, I got a call from one of its sources, Jason Roberts. See: New DOL fiduciary 'rule' unshackles broker-dealers to pursue commissions, declaring brokers ERISA fiduciaries by making simple disclosures ...

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John Swolfs: Event-focused organizations around the world are trying to hold their events in the most timely and effective manner that they are able. Inside ETFs and the rest of the financial event industry are all looking forward to having more flexibility after Covid has passed.

The InsideETFs event will compete with InvestWest for coveted late 2020 date, but without Josh Brown's stardust • SS&C's move follows Addepar advance and will include Advent products• The DoL sees net gains in RIAs of about 300 a year

Wednesday, July 8, 2020 – 2:23 AM by Oisin Breen

The COVID-19 pandemic, now spiking in 27 states, is still playing havoc with RIA events, causing popular gatherings like Wealth/Stack and InVest West to scramble for late 2020 dates to host ...

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Betsy Moszeter: It's not obvious why the DOL is proposing a rule specifically for ESG.

Lawyers see crackdown as 'a solution in search of a problem' in regard to Labor Dept. pleas in proposed rule of danger that meeting environmental and social justice goals could harm returns, hence retiree security.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 – 8:18 PM by By Lisa Shidler

Brooke's Note: You might have thought that the ESG horse left the barn long ago, now that it's at about $12 trillion and companies like BlackRock claim to be all-in. See: Chafing under $4 trillion of passive assets, BlackRock CEO warns Fortune 500 CEOs he may ...

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Eric Poirier: You would be hard pressed to get it done any faster.

The Mountain View, Calif., firm registers a broker-dealer then rolls out 'Marketplace' to virtually meld five big semi-manual platforms into one smoother, more digital NTF platform of alts -- and charge a hefty toll.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020 – 1:46 AM by Oisin Breen

Brooke's Note: When Chuck Schwab invented OneSource in the 1990s it was a huge advance. Funds were willing to pay his firm 35 basis points annually for all the assets that flowed to them because of all the marketing costs it saved them. Investors loved ...

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