In recent months, the CFP Board has been buffeted by criticism of its current compensation disclosure rules - built upon a series of definitions that the CFP Board insists have not been changed since the Practice Standards were approved after a public comment process more than 5 years ago, yet appear to be impacting so many advisors that it's difficult to understand how the current way the CFP Board is interpreting its rules is anything but a change from how things once were.
The key point of dispute appears to revolve around the CFP Board's use of its so-called "3 buckets" approach to determining the types of compensation an advisor receives, which looks at what clients pay to the advisor, to related parties, and how the advisor themselves generate income from their employment and ownership interests. In the process, the definition of what constitutes "compensation" has stretched so far that advisors can now be disciplined for failing to disclose types of compensation that don't actually exist because no client has ever actually paid it to anyone, ever!
Accordingly, it's time for the CFP Board to "clarify" its 3 buckets approach to recognize that the fundamental starting point for all types of compensation disclosure should always be what clients actually pay in the first place. The fact that no client has ever actually paid a commission to anyone, ever, should always be a valid defense for an advisor to claim that they are fee-only (and the same should apply to commission-only advisors whose clients have never paid fees, and who are equally in "violation" of the CFP Board's current rules). By fixing its confused and problematic rule, the CFP Board can start to move past its recent compensation disclosure debacles and move the definitions in line with a clear and logical rule that consumers can actually understand, and eliminate the absurd requirement for advisors to disclose (and potentially be punished for failing to disclose) client compensation that doesn't actually exist!