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DOL Fiduciary Rule - An Update

Fourth Quarter 2016|Jim Williams| The landscape for personal financial planning will change this year. It is highly likely we will see changes in the income tax and estate tax areas. There has grown up, to the extent it did not exist before, a cottage industry in prognostication about where things are headed. Of course, like almost all prognostications, most of these will turn out to be wrong and as always we recommend you treat prognostications with a good dose of skepticism. They are guesses. No more, no less. One subject of interest is whether the recently promulgated DOL (fiduciary) rule, which I discussed in our 1st Quarter 2016 letter, will be repealed or otherwise vacated.

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A New Rule

First Quarter 2016|Jim Williams| You have probably heard that the Federal Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued a new set of rules that prescribe a standard of conduct for those advising retirement account (including IRA account) holders. The rules provide that advisors, (more particularly brokers and annuity salespeople) can no longer earn commissions and other forms of conflict creating compensation from these advisory arrangements unless the advisors agree to do so pursuant to a Best Interests Contract (BIC) which binds the advice provider to a fiduciary standard. The new rule does little to clarify or rationalize the already bewildering landscape of rules of conduct for financial advisors. While it is well-known in the financial services industry that trust is at the heart of the relationship between financial advisor and client, it is also well known that most clients have little clarity as to what ethical standards may apply to their advisor.

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A Look Back

Fourth Quarter 2015|Jim Williams| With the completion of 20 years of operations, I hope you enjoy a glimpse back at what we were (I was) thinking about 20 years ago, and how things have changed (and what has stayed the same). Our investment management process began as a careful and laborious screening and filtering and analysis of actively managed mutual funds. The screening encompassed virtually the entire mutual funds universe. At the bottom of the mutual fund analysis process was the search for Alpha, or market-beating performance. This search was driven by the desire to meet the expectations of the broadest population of the investing public, many if not most of whom expect their investment manager to “beat the market”.

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Stewardship not Salesmanship

Fourth Quarter 2011|Jim Williams| Since our approach is one that does not change with short-term swings in the markets and does not depend on our predicting market turns, our story is essentially a one-time story which doesn’t lend itself to a new version each quarter. Still, it’s a good thing to revisit first principles from time to time just to keep the thought process grounded.

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What are Financial Planners and Temporary Estate Tax Laws

Fourth Quarter 2010|Jim Williams| You may recall that when Congress enacted the Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, the act included a requirement that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) study the need for regulation of financial planners. Well, the study was just released. Most industry observers believe that the study falls short.

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Stewardship of the CFP Marks

First Quarter 2008|Jim Williams| The Board does have a responsibility of stewardship of the marks, since the Board, as a non-profit corporation, is the legal owner of the marks. The Board seems to regularly overlook the fact that the marks have value only because of the efforts of the 55,000 certificants.

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