A commissioner with the Securities and Exchange Commission offered a starkly different opinion from some of his fellow Democrats recently about how to address the regulatory differences between broker-dealers and investment advisers.
In a speech Tuesday, the commissioner, Luis Aguilar, raised concerns about recent talk of imposing a uniform standard on all financial intermediaries and creating a self-regulatory organization for investment advisers.
Broker-dealers and investment advisers are regulated under different federal laws. A key difference between the two involves rules governing their standard of conduct.
Investment advisers are held to a fiduciary standard, which requires them to make investment decisions in the best interest of clients. Brokers, meanwhile, are held to "suitability" standards under which they can sell securities as long as those investments are suitable for the client.
But some of the divisions between brokers, who sell stocks and bonds on commission, and advisers, who offer investment guidance, have blurred recently.
That worries some regulators, who fear customers will not be able to tell the difference between the two. SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro has said that harmonizing regulations between broker-dealers and investment advisers is among the things on the SEC's agenda.
Aguilar's comments differ from those presented by Commissioner Elisse Walter, a Democrat. Speaking to the Mutual Fund Directors Forum last week, Walter said she supports more consistent regulation of the two, in part by possibly "imposing a uniform standard of conduct on all broker-dealers and investment advisers."