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Sounding Off: Did CFP Board Overreact With Goldfarb Sanctions?

Numerous readers responded to a recent article about the CFP Board sanctioning its former chairman, Alan Goldfarb for selecting “fee only” and, later, “salary” to describe his income on a form on the FPA website.

An ad hoc commission of the board concluded his salary may have been composed of commission. The story said that Goldfarb denies that he was being dishonest about the source of his income. In all other communications with clients, he says, he disclosed the fact that his former wealth management firm’s parent company paid him a salary and owned a broker-dealer.

“No one was trying to hide anything here, which is why I think this was blown out of proportion,” Goldfarb says. The sanction did not specify precisely how he should have described his income on the FPA website.

The sanction prompted Goldfarb to resign his position with the board. He also has left his former salaried job and is, essentially, starting over as an entrepreneur after more than 40 years as a planner.

Here is a lightly edited selection of reader comments about the story.

Posted by Susan E | Wednesday, June 26 2013 at 12:14PM ET:

Something is very wrong with how the CFP Board is publicly going after CFPs for unintentional errors that did not harm any member of the public. My son was in the process of preparing for his CFP and I have stopped him - what a sad statement. If I'm second guessing being part of an association that will ruin a good man's career over an unintentional error, why would I subject my son to such an abuse of power or misdirection of priorities? If we make an honest unintentional mistake, give us the opportunity to fix it - that's guidance. To publically ruin our careers over it - that's reckless. Shame on you CFP Board CEO Kevin Keller and Board attorney Michael Shaw for either directing this action or allowing it to happen.

Posted by Scot S | Friday, June 28 2013 at 5:47PM ET:

So the Board sanctions the man but "The sanction does not specify which box he should have checked." So now is everyone else in the same situation exposed WITHOUT ANY guidance whatsoever how to disclose their compensation arrangements?

Posted by J. H | Tuesday, July 02 2013 at 10:15AM ET:

After reading the article, as well as several others on the same subject, I took the weekend to do my own research. (1) I read every public "letter of admonition" on the CFP website. I figured the suspensions and revocations were for serious infractions but wanted to see what the Board did public letters for, as that's what they did against Mr. Goldfarb, which would be detrimental to any CFP's career. I was SHOCKED at the number of public letters for what appeared to have been an honest mistake or different interpretation of a rule. (2) I then "Googled" the names of several of the CFPs that received letters due to what appeared to be honest mistakes and discovered the Board’s disciplinary letter was one of the first results from the Google search. I've been a CFP for over 20 years and know prospects routinely Google my name as part of their due diligence before making a decision to work with me. Let me be clear that I would never intentionally violate a rule, nor would I ever do anything that was not in the best interest of the client. That doesn't appear to matter to the Board. The end result is that the Board routinely ruins the careers of CFPs with their public letters of admonition for infractions that do not warrant having one's career ruined over. … after reading all of the public letters of admonition, and how the Board words such letters to the public, the current Board is ruining the lives of good CFP's. Something has to be done to stop this. I have held the designation with pride for two decades but cannot in good faith, or good business, renew. What a shame.

Posted by Chris C | Friday, June 28 2013 at 3:57PM ET:

Clearly the CFP board wants to hurt the CFPs any way they can. This action taken by the CFP board is so completely ridiculous that there has to be something else going on. I wouldn't ever want to be part of an organization where a secret agenda is pursued at the cost of upstanding, reputable planners. Sounds like someone couldn't find damaging so they had to make this flimsy argument up. But an effort like this takes collusion, so the whole CFP designation is severely tainted.

Posted by Jackie B | Wednesday, June 26 2013 at 12:02PM ET:

As a CFP the current feel from the Board is one of persecution. The Webinar series that I have attended are about procedure(s). We were recently asked if we supported an increase in dues to support a public awareness campaign-maybe that is the reason the board feels it must now spend time sanctioning -publicly its own members? Who has decided that the public is best served by this procedural witch hunt? Wouldn't the public be better served by the Board going after the real offenders of the public trust? How many CFPs(R) are barred from using the marks for things other than not responding to a board letter? Does the public know the difference from a public letter for this or a real offense from the SEC or FINRA that had a penalty attached? The CFP board obviously wants to be part of the system-but seems to have forgotten that we volunteer to be part of the community and it is not actually needed to conduct business. The board needs to focus on intent when swinging a hammer this large. In my office -- the two youngest advisors see no value to the CFP(R) mark when they have read this article-sadly I could make no real case to defend all the work I have subjected myself to in order obtain the marks. I hope to feel differently soon-but I am not hopeful, I have seen power grabs before.

Posted by Ted S | Saturday, June 22 2013 at 1:49PM ET:

Alan Goldfarb is a personal friend, colleague, and former teacher of mine. In all the time I've known Alan, he has been nothing but a professional. It is really sad to see such mud slinging at a man who has dedicated his career to promote the integrity of financial planning. Maybe the process is broken? Maybe the FPA needs more clarity of questionning on their forms? I can't beleive that there was any bad intent on Alan's part. Take courage my friend Alan Goldfarb.

Posted by Richard O | Friday, June 21 2013 at 12:59PM ET:

One reason to stay away. Here's a gentleman who made a mistake on a form, tried to amend to satisfy and still couldn't make the sanctimonious so-in-so's happy. Makes you wonder if there's something else involved.

Again, this blindered view of the world is why I shy from the CFP.

What do you think of the sanctions?

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