After months of legal wrangling, the CFP Board has released 300,000 pages of documents to investment advisors Jeffrey and Kimberly Camarda, who filed a lawsuit against the Board about a year ago. The Camardas first requested the documents in November 2013, and filed a motion to compel in March.
“These documents are being produced in response to the extremely broad discovery requests the Camardas issued to CFP Board,” said Dan Drummond, CFP Board spokesman. “CFP Board will continue to vigorously defend itself against the meritless allegations brought by the Camardas in their lawsuit.”
Donald Hannaford, spokesman for the Camardas, declined to comment.
During the process, the CFP Board filed a motion for protective order and various motions to quash subpoenas of several executives. A court document filed on April 17 said the CFP Board had spent 2,000 attorney hours and 200 paralegal hours during the production of requested documents. The documents are protected through a confidentiality order and won't be released to the public.
Jeff and Kim Camarda, who run Camarda Advisors and Camarda Consultants, filed their suit in June 2013, alleging the CFP Board failed to provide a fair and just hearing on their use of the term “fee-only” to describe their compensation model to clients.
Specifically, the advisors claim the organization’s disciplinary action (and subsequent public printing of their alleged violations) and procedures violated the Board’s disciplinary guidance and polices, and damaged the Camardas’ reputation and competitive ability to run their businesses. The advisors allege this is in violation of antitrust laws such as the Sherman Act and the Latham Act.
According to the amended complaint filed in January, the CFP Board started to investigate the Camardas after receiving an anonymous complaint claiming the firm falsely advertised the “fee-only” distinction in connection with investment advice when they also provided commission-based services.
The Board’s investigation found probable cause, and the matter was referred to a disciplinary hearing in March 2012. But the Camardas claim they were not given a fair hearing, alleging the Board failed to properly conduct due diligence or speak with the firm’s clients to see if they were misled regarding their fee arrangements. Further, the Board failed to show any proof of a revenue-sharing arrangement between Camarda Advisors and Camarda Consultants.
The Camardas’ suit is seeking at least $75,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees, as well as an order rescinding the Board’s decision and voiding the corresponding disciplinary sanction.
In a recent survey conducted by WealthManagement.com, 32 percent of CFP licensees felt the recent scandals involving the CFP Board detract from the perceived value of a CFP designation in the eyes of clients or prospects. About 54 percent said they don’t trust compensation disclosure on the CFP’s website.
Michael Kitces, industry blogger and financial planner, said the CFP Board could lose clout in Washington if the Camardas win.
“[The board] will lose a lot of respect in Washington when they’re lobbying for the CFP marks as the gold standard if they’re found guilty of false advertising about their credentials,” Kitces said. “That doesn’t dissolve the organization, but good luck getting access to legislators and getting your input heard on capital hill and with regulators with that kind of black mark on your record.”