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Going ‘Bare’ Might be an Expensive Mistake

An Opinion on E & O Insurance for FAs

Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP™

www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

[Publisher-in-Chief]

This post is not about medical malpractice liability insurance. As a doctor, financial advisor and insurance agent I have written and opined on this subject before; informally on this blog and more formally through our handbooks:

http://www.amazon.com/Insurance-Management-Strategies-Physicians-Advisors/dp/0763733423/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275315795&sr=1-3

and, of course, pragmatically with clients: www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com

No, this post is about Errors and Omissions insurance for financial advisors.

About E & O Insurance for FAs

Like many physicians, most financial planners and advisors are confident that the way they practice minimizes the chance of being sued by a disgruntled [patient] client. And, perhaps that has been their experience so far. But just one arbitration case for a substantial claim can cost $10,000 or more, and a conventional lawsuit that goes to court with a jury trial will run about $50,000, even if it’s a totally bogus claim. With the cost of errors and omissions coverage for financial advisors now down to between $650 and $2,000 per year, it doesn’t make much sense to “go bare;” especially after the highly emotional 2008-09 debacle.

Historical Past

In years past, most financial planners opted to go without insurance because premiums on E&O policies ran about $7,500 -10,000 per year. Most of them should think again and take the same advice they give their clients—insure for catastrophic loss. We all know that when the stock market bubble finally bursts, there will be a lot of unhappy clients looking to recoup losses. What better time than now while things are good to put E&O coverage in place.

E & O Coverage

E&O policies cover errors, misstatements, negligence, breach of duty, and other wrongful acts, but fraudulent acts are usually not covered. Many major broker/dealers carry group coverage for the affiliated planners. Deductibles are typically $5,000 per planner and $20,000 for the firm. Policies are not standard—coverage can vary widely. Some cover insurance, some cover only securities, investment advisory and financial planning, and some cover other investment advice (e.g., real estate, franchises, etc.). Make sure the policy you buy covers what you actually do.

Claims-Made Policies

Be aware that these policies, like malpractice coverage, are on a “claims-made basis” rather than an “occurrence basis.” Therefore, prior acts are not usually covered unless the planner had continuous coverage with an insurer since the act was committed. As a result, it is essential to never permit a gap in coverage inasmuch as this could break the chain necessary for coverage of prior acts. So, this is where “tail coverage” comes into play; and it might be expensive!

Assessment

Experts point out that the biggest reason planners get sued is failure to diversify the client’s portfolio adequately. A fair [majority?] number of “financial advisors” are “one-product” sales people who always sell the product they know. This can be an expensive modus operandi. You only buy professional liability insurance because you cannot afford the consequences.

Note: “Minding Your Es & Os,” by Eric L.Reiner, Dow Jones Investment Advisor, February 1997, pp. 56–61, Dow Jones Financial Corp. [908] 389-8700)

Conclusion

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