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SEC may weigh in on investment-advice rule for brokers

  • Securities regulators will meet April 18 to vote on whether to propose rules changing the advice standards for brokers.
  • The move comes about a month after the Labor Department said it would not enforce its own investor protection rule after an appeals court ruled that the agency overstepped its bounds.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is wading into the long-running battle over how to protect consumers from their broker or advisor offering self-serving investment advice.

At a public meeting scheduled for April 18, SEC commissioners will consider whether to propose rules that would impose new standards for securities brokers, according to a notice on the agency's website. Under possible consideration:

  • Requiring advisors and brokers to provide a "brief relationship summary" to retail investors.
  • Establishing a standard of conduct for brokers who provide investment advice to retail clients.
  • Issuing an agency interpretation of its standard of conduct for investment advisors.
Understanding alts and their risks may require more homework than most investors are willing to take on.
Ariel Skelley | Getty Images
Understanding alts and their risks may require more homework than most investors are willing to take on.

As it stands now, brokers are required only to make sure an investment is "suitable" for a client. This differs from registered investment advisors, who must serve as fiduciaries — that is, the advice they provide must be in the best interest of the client.

The SEC meeting comes about a month after the Labor Department said it was backing off enforcement of its own investor protection rule due to a court ruling. In that case, a federal appeals court determined the agency had overstepped its authority by creating the rule, parts of which took effect last year.

It remains uncertain whether the Labor Department will challenge the court ruling.

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