For RIAs: Is this good marketing? Better practice for fiduciaries?

Registered investment advisors, how much should you disclose when you use articles written by others? Is it okay to slap your name on articles largely written by others? What if those articles may also appear under the names of other advisors?

Below is a question posed by one of my readers.

Several DFA staff members write commentaries which are kept in a “library” for the approved advisors to use. Approved advisors can search for a commentary that they feel is timely (not usual to see commentaries which were written by DFA in 2008-2010 used in the present by an RIA).

A simple search of an DFA used commentary by an RIA will bring up multiple “DFA-approved RIAs.” However, in the individual RIA commentaries a few will use a disclaimer that states the subject matter was “Adapted From Joe Smith of Dimensional Fund Advisors” while many others will treat the commentary as their own work.

RIAs are quick to market their role as a fiduciary to their clients but I feel that acting with integrity is just as critical. I believe that citing sources correctly is fundamental to acting with integrity when communicating with clients and the public.

Do you think that clients would appreciate such disclosure and conversely disapprove of portraying another firms thoughts and research as originally from an RIA?

This isn’t–or shouldn’t be–an issue for registered representatives because FINRA advises them to disclose the role of other writers, as I discussed in “Registered reps, it’s time to ‘fess up.

5 replies
  1. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    This is a great topic Susan. Congrats for having the guts to bring it up. I don’t approve of this strategy. I believe RIA’s should write their own articles and not “borrow” articles they did not author. I’m a big believer in branding and setting yourself apart. If you’re using articles written by someone else, you are missing several opportunities: learning by writing the article yourself; showcasing your skills and personality in your brand through writing.

  2. Susan Weiner CFA
    Susan Weiner CFA says:


    Thank you for your comment. I hope it’s the start of a lively discussion.

    I have mixed feelings about this topic, probably because of my role as a ghostwriter.

  3. James H. Barker, Jr., CFA
    James H. Barker, Jr., CFA says:

    It is wrong to present another person’s work as your own. If you do this in school, it is called cheating. In the investment industry it is a deceitful practice at best. However, with increased regulation it is getting more difficult to communicate your original thoughts directly to your clients in the printed word and pass FINRA and compliance approval. It is ridiculous and void of commen sense.

  4. Susan Weiner CFA
    Susan Weiner CFA says:


    I hear your frustration. In my last corporate job, which ended in 2003, the advisors complained about the “weasel words” that Compliance inserted into our investment commentary.

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