Con artists, masquerading as so-called financial planners, have perpetrated frauds in 20 states amounting to $20 million, according to a survey released yesterday by the North American Securities Administrators Association.
The state securities regulators announced the results of their survey on the first of a two-day conference in Miami Beach on abuses in the financial planning industry. NASAA and industry officials are meeting to take steps toward developing regulation of this growing, but thus far unregulated, industry.
Michael Unger, director of the Massachusetts Securities Division, said yesterday "there is every indication this is just the tip of the iceberg."
Scott Stapf, who conducted the survey for NASAA, said he looked only at the estimated 200,000 persons who advertised or represented themselves to clients as financial planners.
Hubert Harris, an official of the International Association for Financial Planning, the largest trade group for financial planners, agreed that there are problems and said the IAFP is trying to address them by establishing educational and ethical standards. However, he noted that $20 million represents less than 1 percent of the $17 billion in investments financial planners handled last year.
NASAA formed a committee late last year to propose model state legislation. Several states, including Maryland and California, have introduced bills to regulate financial planners. The industry itself would prefer self regulation, while others believe that stronger enforcement of existing securities laws is sufficient.