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SIFMA to Address Investor Distrust of Wall Street . . . Really?

Posted by Larry Doyle on December 9, 2013 6:34 AM |

When those paid to promote an organization or industry acknowledge that customers do not trust you, then you know you have a real problem.

On that note, Wall Street and, dare I say, Washington as well have real problems. Let’s navigate and work our way through some smokescreens.

The industry’s own trade organization, SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association), has recently launched an initiative designated as Our Partnership with You:

This is just one part of a series of initiatives that SIFMA will be rolling out to demonstrate our commitment to putting customers first.

Really? So quaint. Watch your wallets, folks.

SIFMA should save themselves and us a whole lot of time and effort with this initiative and others. If they really care about making a commitment to putting customers first, then perhaps they should simply and vociferously recommend that the industry adopt the fiduciary standard when dealing with customers.

Let’s navigate further down this path and see what those at The Institute for the Fiduciary Standard have to say about SIFMA. From a recent release entitled Wall Street To Try To Win Back Investor Trust, we read:

This week is a big week for Chet Helck. The Raymond James Global Private Client Group Chief and Securities Industry Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Chairman will oversee the launch of an initiative which, reflecting his own “passion”, will become an indelible part of his legacy. On Thursday SIFMA will announce an initiative to address investor distrust of Wall Street when Judd Gregg, SIFMA CEO, speaks at the National Press Club in Washington. Next Monday, Helck will welcome President Bill Clinton to kick off SIFMA’s annual meeting.

Nice gig Judd has. A little trip through the revolving door likely has him getting paid similar do-re-mi to his predecessor who picked up a cool $3 million in that role. And what do you think ol’ Bubba picked up for his platitudes? But I digress. Back to the topic of investor trust . . .

The importance to Helck of restoring investor trust is obvious. In October 2012 at SIFMA’s annual meeting, as the incoming Chair, Helck spoke plainly and clearly about the initiative. “Our main job this year is to restore trust in our industry. We have to fix what’s wrong, and take accountability and then emphasize what’s right.” Helck restated this message throughout the year.

In May in an IA interview, Helck said, “My most important goal for this year is to take on the issue of public trust and confidence…. (trust) has reached down to a level where its critical that we address it.” In July, in OnWallStreet, Helck said restoring trust, “has been the cornerstone of my year as Chairman of SIFMA. It’s been my passion.” The story continued, “The resulting recommendations says Helck, will likely encompass changes to industry regulations, practices and transparency.”

Did somebody in the back of the room say “blowjob?” Come on now.

Changes to industry regulations, practices, and transparency? Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!

Why am I so sarcastic? Because if SIFMA really had any teeth, they would not only recommend the fiduciary standard but they might acknowledge that the industry’s own self-regulatory organization FINRA could not spell the word transparency let alone implement that practice.

As we saw just the other day, the Project on Government Oversight along with and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have gone to court in an attempt to pry open the doors to FINRA so that we might all learn what really goes on within Wall Street’s private police detail.

Now if SIFMA joined this call for transparency, then we might be getting somewhere. What are the chances of that happening? I would bet on hell freezing over before SIFMA might embrace the fiduciary standard and a call that FINRA opens its doors.

How about you?

Navigate accordingly.

Larry Doyle

Please pre-order a copy of my book, In Bed with Wall Street: The Conspiracy Crippling Our Global Economy, that will be published by Palgrave Macmillan on January 7, 2014.

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I have no business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. The opinions expressed are my own. I am a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

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