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25 major brokerage firms and insurers misleading consumers

Staff Writer |
Twenty-five top U.S. brokerage firms and insurance companies present their employees as trusted financial advisors putting client interests first.

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This is even as their lobbyists argue in court that they are nothing more than commission-driven salespeople, according to a major new report from the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Americans for Financial Reform (AFR).

The report also dissects how brokerage firms and insurance companies are systematically misleading unwary consumers.

"Financial Advisor or Investment Salesperson: Brokers and Insurers Want to Have It Both Ways," is the report written by Micah Hauptman and Barbara Roper, Consumer Federation of America.

It scrutinizes the websites for the brokerage firms and insurance companies and contrasts the practices they use to attract customers with those they use when resisting regulation as fiduciary advisers.

It comes at a time when some in the brokerage and insurance industries are working feverishly, in court, on Capitol Hill and at Department of Labor (DOL) itself, to overturn a rule requiring financial professionals to act in the best interests of their clients.

The title most commonly adopted by financial firms for their financial professionals appears to be "Financial Advisor."

Firms that use this title (or a variation of it) include: Janney Montgomery Scott, D.A. Davidson, Stifel, Wells Fargo Advisors, HDVest, Baird, Raymond James, Ameriprise, Edward Jones, BB&T Scott and Stringfellow, Chase, UBS, Morgan Stanley, SignatorOne (formerly John Hancock), Lincoln Financial, and VALIC.

While "financial advisor" appears to be the title most commonly used by sales-based professionals, other firms have adopted variations that create a similar impression. For example, Schwab, Stephens, and Hilliard Lyons all use the title "Financial Consultant."

Hilliard Lyons also uses the title "Chartered Wealth Advisor." Voya uses the title "Retirement Consultant," USAA uses the title "Wealth Manager," and Prudential uses the title "Retirement Counselor."

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