The introduction of “best interest” rules for the U.S. brokerage industry hasn’t changed much at broker-dealers, according to new research from the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).
The group of state and provincial regulators issued a report detailing the results of a review of U.S. brokerage firms following the introduction of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) new conduct rules, known as regulation best interest (Reg BI), which concluded that firms continue to put their own interests ahead of their clients despite the new rules.
The NASAA said its nationwide review, which “provides the first comprehensive look” at industry practices since the implementation of Reg BI, found that the share of firms that offer complex, costly and risky products to their clients rose by 11% since the new rules took effect.
And, when recommending such products, 65% of those firms said they’re not discussing cheaper, lower-risk alternatives with clients.
Additionally, the review found that 24% to 30% of firms surveyed were still using conflicted forms of compensation, including sales contests, differential and other extra forms of compensation, that are rarely seen at firms that adhere to fiduciary standards (0.5% to 3% of investment advisers had conflicted compensation).
“Compensation conflicts were concentrated in firms that recommended complex, costly and risky products after Reg BI took effect,” the NASAA found.
It also reported 40% of the firms that recommended risky leveraged or inverse ETFs also had compensation conflicts, as did 41% of firms that recommended private securities, and 52% of the firms that recommended non-traded REITs.
The regulators found that only 35% of the firms that continue to recommend complex, costly and risky products reduced the compensation associated with these products.
“NASAA’s member states did not see the tide-turning reforms they had expected to see in the broker-dealer industry after regulation best interest took effect,” said Melanie Senter Lubin, president of NASAA and Maryland Securities Commissioner.
“This examination reveals that while there were some improvements, most firms are operating in the same manner as they were under the suitability rule, especially when it comes to harmful compensation conflicts,” she said.
The firms covered by the regulator’s review serve more than 77.5 million retail accounts and employ over 316,000 registered representatives.