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U5-ia*: Free Speech For Financial Services Professionals

*For any of you who are not in the securities field who might be reading this, the U5 is the form that broker dealers use to terminate registered reps.

The U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights numero uno says that:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

But of course this does not really apply to social media for anyone who wants to keep their securities license.

While I will NOT say that broker dealers are in any way infringing upon any inalienable rights, FINRA and their interpretation of it sure makes it unattractive to say what you really think to a bunch of people who may be willing to listen. It’s not against the law, but it is just so darn difficult.

That’s why March 15, 2010, was my independence day. That is the day I left the world of being a registered rep and principal and joined a firm that wanted me to think about new ideas, write about them, and get people to think. No revolutionary ideas ever come from having your thoughts proofread and scrubbed for anything promissory or ungrounded.

Not only can I write about hunches and things that have not yet been proven, but, more important, I can use the social media channels without concern that what I write must be edited by someone whose job it is to protect a bigger entity against my rogue behavior.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

I get it, having been on both sides of that story as a former insurance company officer. Deposed. Interrogated. Audited. It’s no fun. People love to sue big companies as a result of what individuals do.

But what does this say about the financial services industry’s ability to reinvent itself? And don’t tell me you don’t think it needs it. There would be no such phrase as “financial reform” if the public at large wasn’t in agreement.

So if the professionals have to weigh their words carefully, or give up their licenses or corporate responsibilities so they don’t have to do that, what will the future of advice look like? Dave Ramsey? Oprah? Suze? Me? Your parents? Yikes. That’s crazy. It sounds an awful lot like what is happening in the medical field with malpractice concerns. Professionals are relegated to “time-out” while unlicensed and inexperienced pundits can say whatever they want in the world of social media, and people listen. Then they form opinions that ultimately those same professionals have to unravel. I am “ascared.”

Where is the trust? How can we give the industry’s culture a makeover? Who will innovate around this one?

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