Saturday, March 24 , 2018, 10:54 am | Fair 58º


Karen Telleen-Lawton: Elizabeth Warren a Superhero for Consumer Protections

Some of my most treasured childhood moments were spent browsing in the public library in the 92 Section: biographies. Queen Elizabeth was my favorite, perhaps because that was my middle name. Biographies of remarkable women lifted me out of L.A. suburbia and taught me to aspire to be my best self.

One aspiration I haven’t yet achieved is to write a biography. If I were to choose today, it would be a superhero like Elizabeth Warren. I know what you’re thinking: It’s that middle name again.

Nevertheless, I’ve admired her for years as a strong advocate of consumer protections in the financial field of which I am a part. She was an early proponent of creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and was considered for its first directorship. As the senior senator from Massachusetts, she sits on committees managing policies on banking, economic policy, energy, housing, aging and more.

Importantly, Warren was one of the most passionate supporters of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule for retirement accounts. The DOL ruling, which is scheduled to be phased in between next April and the following January, requires advisers to act in the best interests of clients when advising on retirement accounts. In arguing for the rule at a congressional forum in March 2015, Warren commented that currently, “it is perfectly legal for some brokers and financial advisers to take kickbacks, prizes or even vacations for selling lousy products to unsuspecting customers.”

In a September article in the trade journal Investment News, writer Mark Schoeff Junior wrote an article titled, “Why Financial Advisers Hate Elizabeth Warren.” “If it weren’t for Ms. Warren and her liberal allies,” Schoeff wrote, “the DOL regulation might be in the dustbin instead of heading toward implementation next April. She galvanized Capitol Hill in the midst of fierce industry lobbying against the measure.”

Investment News editor Fredrick Gabriel hypothesized that financial advisers believe she paints everyone with the same negative brushstroke. “If you only see the bad, you’re going to think that all [advisers] are bad,” wrote Eric Bishoff, chief executive of Bishoff Financial Group.

That doesn’t jive with what Warren has said. In a 2015 forum discussing the proposed rule, she remarked, “There are thousands of honest retirement advisers who put their clients first. But right now they have to compete against the unethical advisers who steer their clients into lousy products.”

Investment News’ subsequent issues carried some rebuttals to Schoeff’s claims. Jim Hallett, president of Hallett Advisors in Washington state, wrote, “Your article headline was a slap in my face. … The vast majority of [registered investment advisors] I know and respect support Ms. Warren and applaud her efforts to raise the standards of our profession and more importantly to advocate for the consumer.” Right on, Hallett.

A Florida adviser had a similar take. “… The [article’s] last quote [‘I can’t argue with what she is pushing for. It’s good for the consumer’] says what should be said by every honest financial adviser.” He recounted the pieces surrounding the Warren article, all concerning fines and complaints against unscrupulous advisers. “We need another 1,000 Elizabeth Warrens,” he finished.

We need another 1,000 Warrens, for sure. Then we need 1,000 authors to write superhero biographies!

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor ( and a freelance writer ( Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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