During Morgan Stanley’s third quarter earnings conference call, James Gorman (CEO of Morgan Stanley) stated that the firm will announce their plan to comply with the DOL’s upcoming Fiduciary rule within the next couple of weeks. However, James Gorman did state that “we are not changing things”, “we run our business with the values of doing everything we can to support our clients and we will continue to do so.” In other words, Morgan Stanley will more than likely not go the Merrill Lynch route by no longer offering commission based IRA accounts.
So, if Morgan Stanley decides not to forgo commission based retirement accounts, what would be another possible strategy for them? Although the Fiduciary Rule will technically still allow commissions, it will be required for brokers and advisors to disclose all conflicts of interests to their clients with retirement accounts. It is also important to note that Morgan Stanley’s wealth management division currently oversees $2.1 trillion in client assets, with $855 billion of those assets being under a fee-based model which is a 75% increase from the third quarter of last year. In other words, Morgan Stanley’s strategy could have a significant ripple effect with their clients as well as their advisors.
In addition, Morgan Stanley was charged by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with “conducting an unethical, high-pressure, sales contest amongst its financial advisors to encourage clients to borrow money against their brokerage accounts.” Morgan Stanley says the allegation is “without merit” and will “vigorously” defend itself. Please note that Morgan Stanley has $70 Billion in client loan balances, which is a new record according to them.
With Morgan Stanley’s strong stance on how they run their business, it will be very interesting to see how this will all play out in the next couple of weeks. And if the charges from Massachusetts are correct, Morgan Stanley will face a world of hurt from regulators and potentially lose client assets. Click on the links to read further into Morgan Stanley’s conference call and the Massachusetts allegations.