What Are Fiduciary Financial Advisors?

The word “fiduciary” is an excellent thing to hear if you are looking for a financial advisor. Maybe you have heard it in the news along with the debate over the fiduciary rule by the Department of Labor, or perhaps it came up as you were selecting a financial advisor. A financial advisor who is a fiduciary holds a relationship of trust with their clientele and abides by fiduciary duty. Fiduciary duty involves the ethical obligation to only act in someone else’s best interest. Theoretically, this ought to minimize conflicts of interest, as well as make financial advisors more trustworthy. Read below to learn more about what a fiduciary consists of and what fiduciary duty involves, and how to locate a fiduciary financial advisor you can work with.

Fiduciary Defined

A fiduciary, by definition, is someone who is ethically bound to act within another person’s best interest. The obligation will eliminate concerns about conflict of interest and makes a fiduciary’s recommendation more trustworthy. Fiduciaries have to:

  • Place their clients’ best interests ahead of their own and seek the best terms and prices.
  • Act in good faith, as well as offer all relevant facts to their clientele.
  • Avoid any conflicts of interest, as well as disclose all possible conflicts of interest to clientele.
  • Do their best to make sure that the advice they offer is thorough and accurate.
  • Avoid utilizing a customer’s assets to benefit themselves, like by buying securities for their own account before they buy them for the client.

Usually, the word refers to one who manages assets upon the behalf of a person, company or a family. That individual may be an accountant, banker, trustee, executor, financial advisor, board member, or investment professional. Theoretically, a fiduciary may be anyone to whom you delegate financial, legal, or personal choices.

Fiduciary Duty: What is it?

Fiduciary duty is a legal duty to place the interests of another entity before your own. If one has a fiduciary duty to you, she or he has to solely act within your financial interests. For example, a fiduciary can’t suggest a strategy which does not benefit you yet instead offers a kickback. It’s possible to imagine it like the patient/doctor relationship, in which one person has the duty of putting the other person’s interests first.

Fiduciary duty is critical for guiding the acts of the professionals dealing with clients’ money. It also is vital because, as violated, it’ll provide an avenue to legal action. If the financial expert who is not a fiduciary has been knowingly selling you high-fee, low-performing investments, you do not have the legal standing you’d have if the expert were a fiduciary.

Breaches of fiduciary duties occur when fiduciaries fail to honor their obligation. A breach might occur if the fiduciary benefits from her or his recommendations, does not offer the right guidance or acts in any way that is averse to your best interests. Instances include:

  • Acting negligently
  • Making unauthorized trades
  • Misrepresentation
  • Account churning

Fiduciaries may be held civilly and financially responsible for all actions they make which aren’t in your best interest. You’re entitled to damages even if you do not incur harm.

Department of Labor Fiduciary Rule

The word fiduciary repeatedly has made headlines over the past couple of years because of the fiduciary rule by the Department of Labor. That rule required any financial experts— which includes insurance dealers and brokers — who offer retirement recommendations or work with retirement strategies to act as fiduciaries. Obama’s administration proposed the rule to develop more transparency surrounding retirement planning. The rule made financial professionals disclose possible conflicts of interest, as well as clearly state commissions and fees. Obama’s administration stated the rule would save people in America as much as $17 billion per year because of conflicted advice.

But, as of June of 2018, the fiduciary rule is dead. After Trump took office, he put off the rule’s implementation because of resistance from the financial sector. Opponents argued that this rule would make it costlier for advisors to manage smaller accounts, and in turn, make it more difficult for lower-income investors to receive financial advice. Then, in June of 2018, the Fifth Circuit Court stated that it finalized its choice to end the fiduciary rule. The court made an argument that that the Department of Labor overstepped its authority to regulate financial providers and services.

President Trump requested that the Department of Labor once again, look over the rule and prepare an assessment. The Department of Labor then could ask the court to assess the rule once again, or the fiduciary rule even could make its way up to the Supreme Court. Irrespective of what happens in the future, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals made an argument in its choice that the fiduciary rule ‘already has spawned substantial market consequences” in raising consumer awareness. Also, companies already have begun to change their behavior, for example by no longer selling products which do not adhere to the fiduciary standard.

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