While recent news reports seemed to suggest that the SEC's Regulation Best Interest eliminated investment advisors’ ability to use the term “fiduciary” in their disclosures, an investment advisor trade group as well as the regulator’s own staff say that’s simply not the case.
The SEC’s recently-approved overhaul to broker and advisor conduct included instructions for the Customer Relationship Summary, known as “Form CRS.” That form requires broker-dealers, investment advisors and dual registrants to include a brief statement about which standard of conduct applies to them, using the exact language in the instructions — which doesn’t include the word “fiduciary,” the Investment Adviser Association says in a statement.
The goal of the language the SEC’s staff has adopted is to use “simplified wording that is short, plain language ... but still describes the key components of a broker-dealer’s or investment adviser’s standard of conduct when providing recommendations or advice,” according to the regulator, the IAA says.
The SEC removed “fiduciary” from the prescribed statement to be used by advisors in favor of the term “best interest,” the trade group says.
But Form CRS requires less prescribed wording overall, as the SEC notes in its adopting release, according to the IAA. That means that firms are free to use their own wording in filling out the required information and have flexibility in how they provide information to investors, the group says.
“Accordingly, advisers may still use the term ‘fiduciary’ in Form CRS to further elaborate on the duties owed to their clients, for example, when discussing their conflicts of interest,” the IAA says.
Senior staff in the SEC’s Division of Investment Management have confirmed this to IAA as well, the group says.
RIAs will need to file their initial Form CRS between May 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020, according to the IAA.