Let’s try to apply what we’ve been discussing about the “three-pronged approach” to the following practice question:
Which of the following least likely meets the definition of an “investment adviser”?
A. an individual who merely rents a billboard in State A announcing the availability of “total financial planning services”
B. a financial planner limiting her services to budgeting, bill paying, and credit score improvement
C. a newsletter writer who covers mid-cap technology stocks and sends the newsletter to paid subscribers based on market index movements
D. a geological engineer who charges a flat fee to help investors determine promising royalty trusts and limited partnership interests involved with oil & gas exploration
EXPLANATION: the phrase “holding itself out to the public” often messes with people. But, the individual who rents a billboard is doing exactly that—holding herself out to residents of the state as being in the business of providing investment advice. Close enough—she’s an adviser. The newsletter writer loses his exclusion by blasting out his so-called “newsletter” based on “market developments.” He’s only a newsletter writer if he’s publishing a newsletter that goes out to a general audience on a regular circulation—if the thing goes out based on market developments, he’s an adviser. The engineer would not be an adviser if he’s merely telling partnerships whether there is or is not oil/gas underground worth trying to extract, but this guy is telling investors what to invest in, for compensation. He is also an adviser. While “financial planners” usually do meet the definition of “investment adviser,” that is only if part of their service involves securities. If, on the other hand, they keep it to non-securities matters, they escape the definition.