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Financial advisors have fiduciary duty to those who pay them | Financial Awakenings

Okay, I did it again in a recent column. And I got into trouble again. That’s what I get for using the F-word.


My most recent transgression was to point out the simple fact that insurance agents are compensated by commissions on the products they sell. They have no fiduciary duty to legally act in the best interests of their customers.

Every time I remind readers that sellers of financial products do not have a fiduciary duty to their customers, I get indignant responses from financial salespeople who seem to think I have accused them of being unethical.

Not so. Someone who sells financial products may well operate with integrity. In fact, their licenses typically require that they be “fair” and “honest.” These salespeople may care about their customers and be committed to selling only products that they believe will meet their customers’ needs.

But being a fair, honest, and ethical salesperson is not the same thing as having a legal fiduciary duty to the consumer. The word “fiduciary” has a specific meaning in our legal system. It describes those in positions of trust or authority who are required by law to act in the best interests of those they represent. A fiduciary is an advocate for the consumer, who is legally termed a “client.”

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