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CFP Taps NASAA Counsel for Investigator's Role

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards has restructured its legal staff and brought in the top lawyer at NASAA to lead its efforts to prosecute wrongdoing among advisors who hold the CFP mark.

Rex Staples, general counsel at the North American Securities Administrators Association, starts as director of investigations at the CFP on April 9. Staples, 54, has been as NASAA for seven years; he previously had been branch chief for enforcement and compliance at the Washington State Securities Division.

Director of investigations is a new role at CFP, but the organization is not adding legal staff. Chief Executive Kevin Keller said Staples will lead one group of attorneys who will investigate complaints against advisors and present their findings to the group’s Disciplinary and Ethics Commission.

A second legal staff will handle the adjudication work of the commission. Staples reports to Michael Shaw, CFP’s managing director for professional standards and legal.

Keller said he didn’t expect that more cases would come before the CFP as a result of the restructuring, but “it will hopefully allow us to do a better job of preparing the cases that come before the disciplinary and ethics commission.” CFP has held hearings on more than 230 cases of misconduct by advisors from 2008 through 2010; the top three categories of misbehavior are misrepresentation, disclosure issues, and bankruptcy.

The restructuring isn’t related to an upcoming decision the CFP board expects to make on whether to adopt a new approach to handling the cases of advisors who file for bankruptcy, Keller said. The board may drop the handling of those cases as disciplinary matters, and instead note the bankruptcy filing on the individual’s public profile. The board has noted an increase in the number of CFPs with bankruptcy problems.

A comment period on the new proposal recently ended. The board expects to decide what to do in about four weeks, Keller said.

About 62,000 advisors hold the CFP mark.

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