Over the next year, Missouri will examine the various flaws of SB1. One of those flaws concerns the independent investment advisor and the ‘fix’ meant to preclude conflicts of interest.
Preneed trusts have a poor track record in terms of investment performance. Trustees often fail to appreciate the key factors that impact investment strategies for preneed. Those factors can vary substantially from trust to trust, making the fund manager’s job more difficult.
Consequently, it is not uncommon to see large trusts delegate investment authority to an independent fund manager. Missouri’s old preneed law took the practice an ill-advised step too far by relieving the trustee of liability for the advisor’s decisions. NPS exploited that provision by appointing investment advisors who handed the keys to the vault to Lincoln Memorial. Believing themselves to be exculpated from investment liabilities, the NPS fiduciaries became bystanders to the largest preneed fraud in history.
Section 436.445 of SB1 appropriately requires the fiduciary to remain responsible for the investment advisor’s actions. However, the statute goes too far in attempting to preclude any relationship between the advisor and the seller. The provision was lifted from Missouri’s Uniform Trust Code without adequate consideration of the relationships of the seller, fiduciary and fund manager.
In contrast to SB1, the Uniform Trust Code does not prohibit relations between the trustor/seller and the investment advisor (or any service provider to the trust). Missouri’s preneed industry would be better served if such relations were allowed if fully disclosed and subjected to a higher level of scrutiny.