What If Your Financial Planner Files for Bankruptcy?

By Hal M. Bundrick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) You trust your financial planner to be honest, knowledgeable and prudent, but financial setbacks can affect anyone even the wisest among us. What if your financial advisor files for bankruptcy? Would that impact your view of his advice?

Periodically, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards releases a list of CFP professionals who have declared personal bankruptcy within the last five years. The planners are not subject to disciplinary action, and the CFP Board does not investigate the filings.

"The CFP Board verifies the bankruptcy and notes the bankruptcy filing on the CFP professional's public profile, which is available through the search functions on CFP Board's website," a statement with the disclosure says. "The release of the information does not constitute discipline of these individuals and is provided only for the purpose of providing consumers with adequate information to make an informed decision with regard to engaging a CFP professional to assist with financial decisions."

Michael Shaw, managing director for Professional Standards for the CFP Board reiterated the policy in a statement to MainStreet. "CFP Board believes its approach of publicly disclosing the names of CFP professionals who have filed for bankruptcy protection allows consumers to make a fully informed decision when choosing to work with [a] CFP professional," he wrote.

But not all financial planners agree with the disclosure standards. In an anonymous comment to an article addressing the matter on the Financial Advisor magazine website, a writer took issue with the policy.

"As someone who had been a CFP since 1986, I was stunned when the CFP Board came out with their 'publicize' position on bankruptcy," wrote the commenter under the name FormerCFP. "As a successful professional, I was bled to death by three Florida family-law attorneys in a 4 1/2 year divorce that cost me over $800,000 and forced me to file bankruptcy to keep me from being incarcerated (the laws in New Jersey and other states are equally abusive)."

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