What will happen if the National Association of Securities Dealers adopts unchanged its controversial plan to crack down on investment sales practices on bank premises?
Consider the scenarios described by some of the banking companies whose brokerage executives sit on the NASD's newly formed advisory committee on bank brokerages.
These scenarios, outlined in comment letters filed with the NASD, provide some hint of what's in store as the NASD bank broker-dealer committee holds its inaugural meeting today.
*Bank of Boston Corp.'s brokers might have to render investment advice without the benefit of customers' complete financial picture. That could be the fallout if the NASD goes ahead with its proposal to prohibit brokerage employees from viewing confidential bank records, according to a letter from panel member Allen W. Croessman, president of the bank's 1784 Investor Services arm.
*NationsBank Corp.'s brokers would be forced to cut down sharply on off- site meetings with investors if the NASD adopts a strict interpretation of its branch office registration requirements, wrote general counsel Paul J. Polking. He was commenting on behalf of several NationsBank units, including NationsSecurities, the brokerage arm whose president, Charles R. King, serves on the NASD panel.
*BankAmerica Corp.'s BA Investment Services unit might go so far as to drop its broker-dealer charter in favor of selling investments directly through the bank, according to Robert D. Flowers, president of the brokerage.
The committee members, like most of the 285 companies that submitted comment letters, were overwhelmingly critical of the NASD plan. And their opinions should count: the high-powered panel is expected to have considerable say over the final shape of the rule.
The 12 member-committee includes 10 top bank brokerage executives, a third-party marketing executive, and the sales chief of a mutual fund company with extensive sales through banks. Their closed-door meeting today is expected to be the first of several sessions on the NASD proposal, known as Rule 94-94.
Assuming the NASD board of governors adopts the rule, it will be forwarded to the Securities and Exchange Commission for additional review and public comment.
The NASD, which sets professional standards for brokers, maintains that the rules are necessary to protect people who buy mutual funds and annuities in banks. NASD officials also say they are not out to oversee banks, just the brokerage sales that go on in them.
Much of the NASD's proposed rule is aimed at staving off customer confusion over mutual fund sales on bank premises. Because bank deposits up to $100,000 are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., securities and banking regulators have long worried that customers could mistakenly conclude that mutual funds sold on bank premises carry the same protection.
But Bank of Boston's Mr. Croessman, in his comment letter, said the NASD's proposed rules are not needed because bank-affiliated brokerages "already have strong economic incentives to avoid customer confusion."
Bank of Boston's brokerage "wants its customers to understand the difference between an FDIC-insured bank obligation and an uninsured investment with market and principal risk," he wrote. "To that end, it will always be a more effective guardian of its customers than any degree of regulation could force."
Another panel member called the NASD rules "unnecessary," and "duplicative" of banking regulators' guidelines.
"For the NASD to provide separate and perhaps inconsistent requirements will only cause more compliance confusion by NASD members operating on financial institution premises," wrote Richard N. Blythe Jr., president of the brokerage arm of Huntington Bancshares Inc.
The only committee member from a nonbank mutual fund company - William N. Shiebler, senior managing director of Putnam Investments - expressed general support for the NASD's effort, but offered some suggested changes.
Notably, Mr. Shiebler urged the NASD to drop its proposal to block brokerage firms from using confidential information maintained by the bank to solicit customers.