A controversy has arisen over the regulation of investment advisers in the United States. Traditionally, larger registered investment advisers (RIAs) have been regulated by the SEC and smaller ones by the states. The Investment Advisers Act of 1940 severely restricts the ability of RIAs to engage in principal trades with their customers. Brokers, on the other hand, are regulated by a self-regulatory organization, FINRA, as well as by the SEC. Brokers may engage in principal trades with their customers as long as the advice is merely “incidental” to their other activities. In recent years, the boundaries between RIAs and brokers have become blurred as brokers offer more advisory services, and there is substantial confusion among consumers as to the differences between brokers and RIAs. 

In a study mandated under §914 of Dodd-Frank, the SEC documented that it is examining RIAs at a rate of approximately once every eleven years, and recommended the study of additional means to increase the frequency of examinations including user fees to fund more examinations by the SEC, or requiring RIAs to become part of an SRO. It should be noted that the SEC has assigned fewer employees to its Office of Compliance, Inspections, and Enforcement (OCIE) in 2010 than in 2004, despite an increase in overall FTE over this period. This SEC diversion of resources presumably reflects its belief that RIA examinations are less important than other SEC activities. 

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