Diehard Cubs fans will know who this is. It’s Pat Pieper, the legendary Cubs’ field announcer, who for 59 years started each game with the announcement above. But that was back in the day when you could look at the number on the back of the uniform and know who that was and what position he was playing. Now let’s fast forward today to the “players” involved with retirement plans, that is, the individuals and firms that provide investment services to plan sponsors and employees. It’s a little more difficult and got more so recently.

The Consumer Federation of America provided some  help in  its publication, Cutting Through the Confusion, where to Turn for Help with your Investments (PDF). It explains the differences between:

  • Investment advisors who are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and are subject to a fiduciary duty;
  • Brokers who are regulated by the NASD and the New York Stock Exchange, and are subject to a suitability requirement; and
  • Financial planners who are not separately regulated as planners but are regulated depending on the services they provide, e.g., investment advice or sale of securities.
  • Insurance brokers who are regulated by the individual State Insurance Commissioners, and are subject to those rules and regulations.

It’s not that clear, of course, since different standards can apply when investment providers serve as both investment advisors and brokers. Well, they used to be. The SEC’s 2005 rule exempting brokerage firms that charge asset-based fees from investment advisory regulations under specified conditions was recently overturned by in a 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington.

The brokerage firms are now figuring out how to handle the 1,000,000 investors who have approximately $300 billion in fee-based brokerage accounts particularly if investors don’t make a choice between available investment accounts.

Understand now?

The picture above is that of Pat Pieper gathering straw hats showered by fans on September 1, 1932. This was before the Wrigley field bleachers were built. He started his career in the first Wrigley season in 1916, and announced the lineups with a megaphone until the public address system was used starting in 1932. Let’s treasure these pictures of Wrigley field since as a result of the Tribune ESOP transaction, the team will be sold and not the ballpark which may wind-up as a real estate development.