Will voters save free markets in Massachusetts?

On November 6, voters in Massachusetts will gather to decide the commonwealth's next secretary of state and subsequently the direction of its financial future.  Since 1995, incumbent William Galvin has occupied the office, utilizing the full weight of its power to crush what he calls "fraud in the finance industry," "scam artists," and "rogue dealers."

Ironically, Mr. Galvin himself is a rogue dealer, dealing out fines to the brokerage industry in one state that rival the total of fines imposed on a national level.

Over the course of 2012, Mr. Galvin, with a staff of just 26, fined broker-dealers of Massachusetts securities a whopping $56 million, according to Investment News, while the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which regulates all 50 states with a staff of approximately 3,000, fined broker-dealers just $78.2 million.

In specific examples, Mr. Galvin hit Citigroup Global Markets with a $2-million fine in October of 2012, and again with a $30-million fine in October 2013, stating, "If $2 million didn't do it, maybe $30 million will."

By contrast, in 2012, state securities regulators themselves levied fines of $115 million nationwide, meaning that Mr. Galvin's 2012 fines in Massachusetts alone approximated a staggering 48% of state fines against the securities industry in 2012 across the board.

While Secretary Galvin's intentions may seem noble and designed to protect the "little guy" at first glance, they do far more harm to consumers than good.

In a more recent case, investment firm Scottrade was targeted by Massachusetts state regulators in February for supposedly violating the "Fiduciary Rule," which requires financial advisers to act in the "best interest" of their clients.  As for Scottrade's "sin," the firm offered weekly cash prizes for making additional cold calls to clients, including those enrolled in retirement accounts.

Predictably, Mr. Galvin's reaction to the incident was to call on Scottrade to return profits gained from the activities and to seek, as usual, an "undisclosed administrative fine."  According to Robert Schmansky, the founder of Clear Financial Advisors, governmental assaults on the brokerage industry will serve only to restrict consumer access to financial advising.

"I've been warning about the certainty that the DOL's Fiduciary Rule will eventually lead to fewer firms, less access for advice (true advice, not robo-advisor rebalancing services), and no innovation as the regulatory and intellectual classes determine what products and services investors will be allowed to use rather than the market," Schmansky wrote in Forbes.

"The Massachusetts case is just the latest example of regulation and calls by proponents setting the tone for the Fiduciary Rule is set to do untold harm to smaller and more innovative firms, while showing no real harm done to investors," he continued.

Furthermore, the Fiduciary Rule was ultimately killed by the Fifth Circuit Court in June, declaring that the federal government had "overreached" in its mission and rendering the vendetta against financial advisers fruitless.

Mr. Galvin's actions represent a misguided assault against an industry that does tangible good, providing long-term retirement solutions and bolstering incomes while taking pressure off the government to provide financial assistance.  In a generation where entitlements like Social Security are predicted to lower benefits 21% by 2034, the government should be giving the financial industry all the help it can.

Voters in Massachusetts should weigh Mr. Galvin's record in mind when they head to the polls this November.  Otherwise, American consumers and business-owners will continue to bear the brunt of his vendetta against the financial industry.

On November 6, voters in Massachusetts will gather to decide the commonwealth's next secretary of state and subsequently the direction of its financial future.  Since 1995, incumbent William Galvin has occupied the office, utilizing the full weight of its power to crush what he calls "fraud in the finance industry," "scam artists," and "rogue dealers."

Ironically, Mr. Galvin himself is a rogue dealer, dealing out fines to the brokerage industry in one state that rival the total of fines imposed on a national level.

Over the course of 2012, Mr. Galvin, with a staff of just 26, fined broker-dealers of Massachusetts securities a whopping $56 million, according to Investment News, while the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which regulates all 50 states with a staff of approximately 3,000, fined broker-dealers just $78.2 million.

In specific examples, Mr. Galvin hit Citigroup Global Markets with a $2-million fine in October of 2012, and again with a $30-million fine in October 2013, stating, "If $2 million didn't do it, maybe $30 million will."

By contrast, in 2012, state securities regulators themselves levied fines of $115 million nationwide, meaning that Mr. Galvin's 2012 fines in Massachusetts alone approximated a staggering 48% of state fines against the securities industry in 2012 across the board.

While Secretary Galvin's intentions may seem noble and designed to protect the "little guy" at first glance, they do far more harm to consumers than good.

In a more recent case, investment firm Scottrade was targeted by Massachusetts state regulators in February for supposedly violating the "Fiduciary Rule," which requires financial advisers to act in the "best interest" of their clients.  As for Scottrade's "sin," the firm offered weekly cash prizes for making additional cold calls to clients, including those enrolled in retirement accounts.

Predictably, Mr. Galvin's reaction to the incident was to call on Scottrade to return profits gained from the activities and to seek, as usual, an "undisclosed administrative fine."  According to Robert Schmansky, the founder of Clear Financial Advisors, governmental assaults on the brokerage industry will serve only to restrict consumer access to financial advising.

"I've been warning about the certainty that the DOL's Fiduciary Rule will eventually lead to fewer firms, less access for advice (true advice, not robo-advisor rebalancing services), and no innovation as the regulatory and intellectual classes determine what products and services investors will be allowed to use rather than the market," Schmansky wrote in Forbes.

"The Massachusetts case is just the latest example of regulation and calls by proponents setting the tone for the Fiduciary Rule is set to do untold harm to smaller and more innovative firms, while showing no real harm done to investors," he continued.

Furthermore, the Fiduciary Rule was ultimately killed by the Fifth Circuit Court in June, declaring that the federal government had "overreached" in its mission and rendering the vendetta against financial advisers fruitless.

Mr. Galvin's actions represent a misguided assault against an industry that does tangible good, providing long-term retirement solutions and bolstering incomes while taking pressure off the government to provide financial assistance.  In a generation where entitlements like Social Security are predicted to lower benefits 21% by 2034, the government should be giving the financial industry all the help it can.

Voters in Massachusetts should weigh Mr. Galvin's record in mind when they head to the polls this November.  Otherwise, American consumers and business-owners will continue to bear the brunt of his vendetta against the financial industry.