Fiduciary responsibility

Is there any Federal law or regulation that requires a financial advisor to have a fiduciary responsibility to his clients?
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Me-manny writes:
There's no unambiguous definition of "financial advisor".
There is a Registered Investment Advisor ("RIA") and, yes, RIAs (and their representatives, called IARs) *do* have a fiduciary responsibility.
Broker-dealers and their representatives do NOT. Neither do representatives or agents of insurance companies.
Some folks are both B-Ds and RIAs and simply "take off one hat and put on the other" in the middle of a conversation. And when they do that, they switch, in theory, from one rule (fiduciary) to another (suitability). And, no, the client is rarely aware when that shift happens.
Yes, it's ugly.
Plain Bread alone for e-mail, thanks.  The rest gets trashed.
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With all the new legislation resulting from the financial crisis and calls for more regulation of big banks, at least we can hope that some of the concern eventually will trickle down and make people look more closer at the situation with broker-dealers, insurance agents, etc. If people are induced to BELIEVE that a certain business person has a fiduciary responsibility to clients, then there most certainly should be regulations in place to make sure that person DOES indeed have a fiduciary responsibility.
Just saying "let the buyer beware" is not good enough. In the case of something as important as medical prescriptions or financial products with a big impact on peoples lives and welfare, regulations with teeth, that are strictly enforced for everyone, are necessary.
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While it is not "federal law or regulation", certain professional designations also require that the designee take on fiduciary duty. For example, a CFP(R) practitioner, by virtue of using the "Certified Financial Planner"designation, agrees to owe fiduciary duty to his/her clients. Failure to do so can result in loss of the right to use the CFP designation.
Would you feel better if you could drag your financial advisor into court for breach of fiduciary duty? Probably. I know I would. But being able to strip them of their credentials is, at least, a distant second. And as Bread stated, RIAs are held to a fiduciary duty, but you'd likely be amazed at how few financial advisors aren't RIAs and thus not held to that standard.
Perhaps the best advice is to simply ask the financial advisor with which you're considering doing business.
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