Former CFP Board Chair Strikes Back

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The firestorm started March 3. An Investment News story reported that the CFP Board erased compensation methods from its website.

A week later the decision looks even worse.

Industry outlets have reported the news widely. Criticism of the CFP Board (CFPB) has been sharp. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Zweig wrote a piece, “It Just Got Tougher to Know How Your Adviser Gets Paid.” The CFPB leaped to defend its decision. Board CEO Kevin Keller has repeatedly insisted that what drove the decision was, “about fiduciary, not about fees.”

The CFPB choice to retreat to more opacity in this decision was tough. Absent having the law or facts or commonsense, it’s tougher still.

Susan John, chair of the CFP Board in 2019, sent a letter to CFPs to explain her support.

Over the weekend I spoke with Ms. John, now past-CFPB chair. She was not speaking for the Board, but “for herself, alone.” Ms. John is a unique figure in this drama. A life-long (34 years) fee-only planner, she also chaired NAPFA in 2012.

We talked for an hour on the issues of fees and commissions, fee-only status, the new CFP standards and the Board’s erasing the compensation tool. Ms. John was frank, forthcoming and clear – no holds barred. She did not muddle. She unabashedly supports the decision.