Thursday, May 13, 2010

2nd Prong, Compensation

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In any case, let's look at the next prong in the "three-pronged approach" to defining investment advisers: does the person receive compensation as a result of providing investment advice? Many candidates have a hard time with this one. They think that the compensation has to be in the form of money, but "compensation" includes any form of economic benefit. So, if you get a test question about a finance professional in a rural area who provides total financial planning and investing checkups in exchange for sacks of potatoes or sides of beef, that finance professional is receiving compensation for his advice and would meet the definition of "investment adviser." Also remember that the compensation does not have to be paid by the person receiving the advice. In the previous blogpost we had an insurance agent charging advertisers while providing advice to site visitors--makes no difference who pays him. He's getting compensation indirectly for providing investment advice. Close enough for rock and roll. Or, maybe a test question has somebody giving employees of a large company portfolio allocation advice and charging the company, not the employees. Again--makes no difference who pays him. He's providing investment advice and receiving compensation. He meets the definition of "investment adviser." What if a newsletter writer charges subcribers $300 a year for monthly emailed newsletters discussing large cap value stocks? Is that compensation? Yes. Is the newsletter writer providing investment advice? No. He's just writing a newsletter, just expressing his opinions as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution.
In other words, you gotta think hard and carefully when dealing with these issues. Look for a practice question on the compensation issue in the next few blog posts.

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