Former head of financial planning ethics group to be sanctioned

Sat Jun 8, 2013 6:08pm EDT

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(Reuters) - The former chairman of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, which develops ethics and standards for financial planners, is expected to receive a public rebuke for running afoul of the organization's rules, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Alan Goldfarb, who was chairman of the CFP Board from January 2011 until his abrupt resignation last November, will receive a "public letter of admonition" this month from the organization for inaccurately characterizing himself as a "fee-only" financial planner, the source said.

The board is expected to say that Goldfarb, who also is affiliated with an insurance agency and a broker-dealer, received a salary from one of his other ventures that supplemented his fees, the source said.

A call left at the office of Goldfarb, who is registered as both an investment adviser and securities broker, was not immediately returned.

In an email to Reuters last November, Goldfarb wrote that he "did not commit any violation" but that he slipped with a mischaracterization of his compensation. The chief executive of the planning board issued a statement at the time that took issue with Goldfarb's excuse.

The CFP's expected admonishment is the most lenient type of publicly disclosed penalty that it can take. It also has authority to temporarily or permanently suspend the right of people who pass its tests to use the CFP designation. In 2012, the Board issued 27 letters of admonition, 17 suspensions and 41 revocations or administrative revocations of the designation.

Many independent financial planners flaunt fee-only compensation to distinguish themselves from brokers who receive commissions and other incentives for selling financial products. They typically receive about 1 percent of the assets they manage, meaning their compensation rises and falls with the fortunes of their clients.

Obtaining a CFP does not preclude a certificant from receiving salaries, commissions or other forms of compensation, but its ethics code does not permit inaccurate disclosure.

Goldfarb, a former director of wealth advisory services for Weaver Wealth Management in Dallas, Texas, stepped down from the position last November. The firm advises on a total of $313 million in client assets, according to its website.

He was a pioneer of the independent planning movement, receiving his CFP certification in 1978 and serving on the ethics task force that developed the CFP Board's most recent standards of professional conduct.

When the group announced Goldfarb's resignation as chairman last year, it said that a special committee of its board was also examining two members of its disciplinary and ethics commission who were not named.

The members were Tina Florence, an adviser and broker at Lane Florence LLC, and Mary Hastings, an adviser for Wells Fargo Advisors in Waltham, Mass., according to a source familiar with the situation. A Wells spokeswoman did not immediately respond.

The fact that no action is being announced against the women means that no violations of ethics rules were found or that they received a less severe private rebuke, sources said.

Phone messages left with Florence and Hastings were not returned.

(The story corrects ninth paragraph to say Alan Goldfarb left his post as director of wealth advisory services for Weaver Wealth Management late last year.)

(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn and Jed Horowitz; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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