At a time when RIAs are pointing the finger at brokers for not supporting a fiduciary standard and arguing against FINRA becoming their regulator, most of them are thumbing their nose at advertising rules by not keeping records of their social media.
These positions trouble me in light of an admittedly unscientific but nonetheless valid survey I recently conducted revealing that RIAs are not following advertising rules by keeping records of all their social media profiles, posts, and status updates.
My survey was conducted last week while at the FPA Business Solutions conference in Cambridge, Mass. I was a panelist at a session about the use of social media by advisors and about 100 advisors were in the room.
I asked the attendees how many of them were RIAs and about two-thirds raised their hands.
Then, I asked how many of the RIAs were using social media and about 40 raised their hands.
Next, I asked how many of the RIAs were archiving their social media content and only three or four raised their hands.
My poll was hardly definitive but there’s no reason to believe inaccurate. It’s crazy!
Several years into the social media revolution, we are seeing widespread use by RIAs of social media, and we’re also seeing a widespread failure RIAs to follow SEC rules on retaining advertising materials.
For so many RIAs to ignore the rules at the same time that that Financial Planning Coalition—a group that in large part represents RIAs—is arguing for a strong fiduciary standard consistent with the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 is hypocritical.
For so many RIAs to thumb their noses at the rules at the same time that they argue against being regulated by FINRA is hypocritical.
I fear that the SEC’s lack of resources and record of incompetence has encouraged many RIAs to become lazy about following the rules that govern their behavior.
I see evidence of that laxity in my work with advisors. That RIAs are ignoring rules on archiving their social media content is just one example of their laxity.
The SEC is reportedly sending out requests to RIAs for information about their social media activities and policies. The “sweep” is likely to result in deficiency letters and some heavy wrist slapping.
But the real damage will be done to RIA advocacy in support of applying a strong fiduciary duty on brokers as well as IA reps and in trying to fend off regulation by FINRA.
In the months ahead, as these two issues are taken up by the SEC, an SEC sweep that uncovers widespread disregard of advertising rules could undermine RIAs.