A registered investment advisor has a fiduciary duty to disclose all real and potential conflicts of interests to clients as well as all material arrangements. Often times this broad requirement encompasses outside business activities the registered investment advisor considers non-advisory and would otherwise not disclose to clients. For example, a registered investment advisor that spends only 10% of its time on investment advisory activities and 90% of its time on non-advisory activities is required to disclose this fact. It must be made clear to all clients that the registered investment advisor will not devote all of its time to investment advisory functions unlike other registered investment advisor firms whose only activity is acting as an investment advisor.
An outside business activity may create an incentive to the registered investment advisor that is not in the best interests of the client. For example, an investment advisor representative that is also an insurance agent may decide to recommend a particular insurance product based on an incentive to sell the product (e.g. higher commission, soft-dollars, trips, marketing allowance) rather than recommending the product solely based on the needs of the client. This is a classic conflict of interest that must be disclosed to investment advisory clients. A registered investment advisor’s failure to disclose outside business activities and the outside business activities of its supervised persons is an all-too-often deficiency during examinations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and state securities regulators.
A related type of deficiency is the failure to adequately monitor and approve outside business activities considered investment related. Certain financial related activities are considered higher risk for conflicts of interest between an investment advisor representative (“IAR”) and his/her clients and even his/her firm. These activities include wholesaling investment products, affiliation with a broker/dealer, acting as a mortgage broker, working for a second registered investment advisor, and serving as a limited partner or managing member of a private investment. Before a registered investment advisor allows its supervised persons (which includes all officers, directors, partners, investment advisor representatives and employees) to engage in these types of activities, it is imperative that the supervised person fully disclose the activity and provide detailed documentation of how the activity will impact their affiliation with the registered investment advisor. If the activity does not comply with the registered investment advisor’s compliance policies and procedures, the registered investment advisor should not approve the activity.
For more information and guidance regarding outside business activities common to many registered investment advisors and to learn some best practices with respect to disclosure and mitigation of conflicts of interest, please consider attending our webinar, “Addressing Outside Business Activities and Conflicts of Interest,” on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. CST.
Purchase your webinar seat for $59.95 at www.RIA-Compliance-Consultants.com/webinars.