Regulation Best Interest: Best Interest and Suitability—How They Differ (Part 3)
Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) imposes a “best interest” standard of care on broker-dealers for their recommendations of securities and investment strategies to retail customers. That raises the question, what does best interest mean and how does it differ from suitability?
(Note: While the discussion in this article is based on Reg BI’s best interest requirements for broker-dealers, the SEC has also imposed a best interest standard on investment advisers. As a result, investment advisers should also be attentive to these issues.)
As I explained in Parts 1 and 2 of this article (Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #30 and #31), the difference between best interest and suitability is a hard question without an easy answer. However, based on the SEC’s discussion in the Adopting Release, I have developed examples of where best interest appears to impose a more demanding standard than suitability. These examples focus on the Reg BI requirement that broker-dealers (and their registered representatives) consider costs in the development of recommendations. While costs are not the only factor to be considered, the SEC says that the best interest rule makes cost a more important factor than it was under the suitability standard.