For many years, a fiduciary agent was more of a title than a standard. Several financial industries, ranging from banking to the investment world and real estate, touted fiduciary duties as part of their roles without any actual examination of activities unless there was gross misconduct involved. These cases were extremely rare, and most practitioners as advisers were long-term, inclined to value their reputation for future business versus just achieving a quick deal.
Flash-forward to the 2020s, and just about every day, there is another story of a massive fraud taking place, people being separated from their savings, and corruption being uncovered that dwarfs anything that has occurred collectively for the 30 years prior. Bernie Madoff probably holds the top title in the amount of money stolen through fraud and embezzlement, with only Sam Bankman-Fried being the larger of the two recently. And it was Madoff that touted his title as a fiduciary agent’s role; SBF, at the end of the day, was already in a well-known, high-risk field of running a crypto exchange.
Given the above, it begs the question, in Andrew Denny’s opinion, what good is a fiduciary role today going into 2023? Can anyone in finance be trusted anymore, and do titles matter at all? Andrew Denney of Springfield, MO, has an answer.
The fact is, they do. Because of the significant nonsense that has occurred in serious venues, just about every major player the U.S. can get its hands on has eventually been arrested and set up for a significant portion of life in prison. Madoff ended up passing away shortly after his life sentence, and many others are looking at harsh sentences for violating what has been commonly accepted as a protected role with people’s investments.
For the average investor or retirement planner, however, there are still plenty of concerns about what protections are in place now. Part of what works depends on investors first doing their research into the financial planner they want to use. Only those with verified licensing and certification should be considered to have access to one’s investments. Second, the length of career presence and referrals do add some credence to avoiding a fly-by-night operation.
Now, neither of those two criteria would have stopped Bernie Madoff; Andrew Denney agrees. Madoff passed both factors with flying colors. However, nothing prevents an investor from insisting on seeing actual performance records and verifying them with known regulators. Andrew Denney points out that this last aspect if met by a financial planner, tends to weed out a lot of bad players who don’t want such scrutiny of their activities. Given his track record prior to discovery, Madoff wouldn’t have passed this third test; his performance record was simply unbelievable by any standard. Unfortunately, no one asked the right question at the time.
As a financial planning expert with a proven track record himself, Andrew Denney of Springfield, MO, knows that fiduciary agents have a lot of work to do at repairing the financial industry’s reputation going forward. And that gets proven again, case by case, with each customer and winning their trust. It’s the reason why he works tirelessly today at teaching folks how to avoid being scammed in the modern finance age every day.