An accountants' group has asked Merrill Lynch to stop using the CFM designation.
The Montvale, N.J.-based Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) claims it owns rights to the CFM mark, and is threatening legal action if Merrill continues to use the letters to denote its proprietary Certified Financial Manager (CFM) planning credential.
"We have a big problem here," says attorney John Hazard of Webster Chamberlain & Bean, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm hired by the IMA. "We are very confident of our client's rights with regard to the CFM mark, and we are asking Merrill Lynch to stop using it." The IMA informed Merrill of its concerns early last month.
Merrill Lynch declined comment on the dispute.
The IMA uses CFM for its Certified in Financial Management designation. The accountants' group claims it has owned the CFM trademark since 1994. The IMA also has a trademark application pending for the word mark Certified Financial Manager, according to Hazard.
"What Merrill Lynch is doing is wrong," says Bill Bender, a CFM at Equiva Services LLC Business Analysis & Research and one of 60,000 IMA members. "First of all, Merrill Lynch's CFM designation is acquired through an open book test with no supervision, so it's much easier to get one as opposed to ours. Plus, with Merrill's advertising dollars, the average person will think their CFMs are compatible to ours, and that's false advertising."
Hazard has also contacted the College of Financial Planning, but that organization does not use the CFM mark, according to Al Hockwalt, director of marketing for the college.
"The confusion comes from the fact that we worked with Merrill Lynch in producing the educational content for their CFM program," Hockwalt says. "But we do not use that designation ourselves."
According to one source, the IMA will suggest to Merrill Lynch that it use a CIM (Certified Investment Manager) designation instead.