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  • Writer's pictureDominick Galauran

How to Search for Investment Adviser Public Disclosure: The Ultimate Search Guide

Updated: Feb 15, 2023


How to Search for Investment Adviser Public Disclosure: The Ultimate Search Guide

When looking for an investment adviser, one of the most important things to consider is public disclosure. This document can tell you much about an adviser, including any disciplinary actions they may have had. But where do you find this information? And how do you make sure you’re getting the full story?


Here’s your ultimate guide to searching for investment adviser public disclosure.


What is Investment Adviser Public Disclosure?


Investment adviser public disclosure reports an investment advisory firm's history and business practices. This report can provide investors with important information to help them make an informed decision about a company, such as its disciplinary record and financial stability. Through the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) database, investors can access the latest investment adviser public disclosure reports filed with the SEC by investment advisory firms and their representatives. They can also gain access to related enforcement actions and investor alerts.


By reviewing an investment adviser public disclosure report, investors can gain insight into the risks associated with working with a particular investment adviser firm and learn about the adviser's experience, licensing, and other important factors. An investment adviser's public disclosure can be valuable for investors to ensure they are working with the right company.


What do financial advisors have to disclose?

How to Search for Investment Adviser Public Disclosure: The Ultimate Search Guide - What do Financial Advisors have to disclose?

Financial and Investment advisers must disclose any material conflicts of interest when providing services, such as selling insurance or managing hedge funds. They must also disclose their history and business practices in an investment adviser public disclosure report. This report can provide information about the adviser's disciplinary record, financial stability, experience, licensing, and other important factors. Additionally, they must disclose if they have committed any financial or non-financial crimes. Finally, they must disclose any client disputes, such as if they sold a product to a client that was not properly presented.


Why is it important to search for investment adviser public disclosure?


1. It overviews the investment adviser's history, qualifications, and certifications


The importance of searching for investment adviser public disclosure cannot be overstated. It is extremely important for any potential investor to do research on a company before investing. An investment adviser public disclosure report can provide important information about a firm's disciplinary record, financial stability, and other business practices. By understanding an investment adviser's history and business practices, investors can make a more informed decision about whether to do business with them. Additionally, it can help them understand the risks associated with investing in a particular firm. Knowing this information can help investors make sound and safe investment decisions.


2. It allows the investor to assess the quality and scope of the investment adviser's services


Searching for an investment adviser public disclosure can help an investor make a more informed decision about a company, as it provides important information about their business practices, disciplinary history, compliance procedures, and more. By understanding an investment adviser's history and business practices, investors can better assess the risk associated with working with a particular firm and ensure that their values align with their own. Additionally, by reviewing an investment adviser's public disclosure report, investors can better understand the company's fees and services and potential conflicts of interest, allowing them to make a more informed decision.


3. It allows the investor to make an informed decision when choosing an investment adviser


Searching for investment adviser public disclosure can help the investor make an informed decision when choosing an investment adviser by providing them with important information about a company, such as its disciplinary record and financial stability. By understanding an investment adviser's history and business practices, an investor can make a more informed decision about whether to do business with them. Investment adviser public disclosures can also provide an investor with information about an investment adviser's experience, licensing, and other important factors.


Additionally, the IAPD website is a searchable database of registered investment advisers, exempt reporting advisers, investment adviser representatives, broker-dealers, and mutual funds, providing investors with a reliable resource to check the background of potential investment advisory firms.


4. It provides information on any disciplinary actions against the investment adviser


Searching for disciplinary actions against an investment adviser can help search for an investment adviser's public disclosure by providing insight into the firm’s history and business practices. By understanding an investment adviser's history and business practices, potential clients can make a more informed decision about whether to do business with them. An investment adviser public disclosure report can provide information about a company’s disciplinary record and financial stability, which can help an investor determine if working with an investment adviser is the right choice. With access to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) database, investors can review the latest public disclosure reports filed with the SEC and links to related enforcement actions and investor alerts. This information can help investors decide if an investment adviser's values are appropriate for their needs and if any past bad business practices could risk their investments.


5. It provides information on changes to the investment adviser's registration information


Searching for investment adviser public disclosure can help investors stay updated on any changes to registration information. The Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) database contains registration documents filed by investment adviser firms that register electronically using the Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD), as well as registration information filed with the states by individuals acting as investment adviser representatives. Through IAPD, investors can search for an investment adviser firm or individual representative, view their current filing information, check the adviser's or representative's registration status, and view information on the representative's professional background and conduct. All this information is updated regularly and viewing it can help an investor verify that their adviser has an active registration. Additionally, the IAPD website is available 24 hours a day, free of charge, giving investors easy access to any changes to registration information.


6. It provides access to detailed information on the investment adviser's compensation structure and client assets


The search for investment adviser public disclosure provides information about a company's disciplinary record, financial stability, compensation arrangements, compliance procedures, disciplinary history, and business practices. The search also provides access to related enforcement actions, investor alerts, and details about a company's services, conflicts of interest, and business structure. Additionally, the search can provide information about a company's licensing and experience.


7. It allows the investor to verify that their investment adviser is registered with the state securities regulator


It is important to search for investment adviser public disclosure because it provides valuable information about a company that can help investors make informed decisions about the risks associated with a particular firm. The public disclosure report can provide insight into an investment adviser's experience, licensing, and other important factors that may affect an investor's decision to work with them. Additionally, the report can reveal any disciplinary actions or other problems that may be present. By reviewing this information, investors can better understand the reliability and credibility of the firm they are considering working with. Additionally, it is important to check for any nefarious financial behavior, such as sales abuse practices, unsuitable recommendations, and excessive or unauthorized trading. By thoroughly investigating and understanding an investment adviser's history and business practices, investors can decide whether to move forward with the firm.


8. It provides access to the investment adviser's disclosure documents and web presence


Searching for investment adviser public disclosure can help investors make better decisions about the firms they choose to invest with. It can give them important information about a company, including its disciplinary record and financial stability. Through IAPD, investors can access the latest investment adviser public disclosure reports filed with the SEC by investment advisory firms and their representatives, as well as related enforcement actions and investor alerts. This can help investors to understand the risks associated with working with a particular firm and make an informed decision about whether the firm is suitable for their needs.


9. It allows the investor to verify that their investment adviser complies with regulatory standards


Searching for investment adviser public disclosure can help investors decide whether to do business with a particular firm. By reviewing an investment adviser public disclosure report, investors can learn about the financial stability of an investment advisory firm, any disciplinary action or problems the firm has had, and the experience, licensing, and other important factors of the firm. This information can help investors determine the level of risk they are taking with a particular investment and if the firm's values are appropriate for their needs.


10. It allows the investor to stay updated on the latest developments from their investment adviser


Searching for investment adviser public disclosure can provide investors with the necessary information to make a more informed decision about a potential investment. Investors can better understand a firm's history and business practices by reviewing an investment adviser's public disclosure report. This can help them determine if the values and goals of the firm align with their own. Additionally, investors can gain access to related enforcement actions and investor alerts, providing them with insight into any potential risks they may face. Furthermore, the SEC and NASAA offer educational resources to investors, allowing them to better understand the securities industry and learn how to avoid costly mistakes. Overall, obtaining investment adviser public disclosure can help investors make a more informed and confident decision.


How to search for investment adviser public disclosure?

How to Search for Investment Adviser Public Disclosure: The Ultimate Search Guide - How to Search for Investment Adviser Public Disclosure?

Step 1: Research form ADV requirements and guidelines

  1. Go to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) website at www.sec.gov or the IAPD website.

  2. Type in the financial advisor's name in the search field. This will bring up the advisor with that exact name and people with similar names.

  3. Check the advisor's CRD number and ensure it matches the one they sent you. If they refuse to provide it, they are probably up to something shady, and you should look elsewhere.

  4. Once you find the advisor's Form ADV, read it thoroughly. The Form ADV provides basic business details such as ownership, clients, employees, fees, etc. It's not designed to be a user-friendly narrative, so you may need to read through it a few times to fully understand it.

  5. Once you are done examining Form ADV Part I, click the button that says “Part 2 Brochures.” This is written in a more user-friendly format, but the data can be very dense, and many ADV brochures are lengthy. Pay special attention to Item 5, “Fees and Compensation,” as it is very important to understand the fees the advisor charges.

  6. If you can’t find the financial advisor’s Form ADV, contact the SEC for more information.

Step 2: Collect form ADV documents

  1. Before starting your search, you should know the basics of Form ADV. Form ADV is the uniform form investment advisers use to register with the SEC and state securities authorities. The form consists of two parts, both available on the SEC website.

  2. To access a copy of a particular firm’s Form ADV, go to the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) website. You can search for a firm by name or CRD number on this website. Once you have located the firm you are looking for, click on the “Firm Summary” link.

  3. On the Firm Summary page, you will find Form ADV Part I and Form ADV Part II. Form ADV Part I is an application and provides basic business detail about the advisor, such as ownership, clients, employees, etc. Form ADV Part II is a narrative brochure that discusses the adviser's business practices, fees, conflicts of interest, and disciplinary information. We recommend that you review Form ADV Part 2 as it provides an organized view of the major aspects of the advisor’s business and is more user-friendly.

  4. As soon as you are done examining Form ADV Part I, go back to the Firm Summary page and click the button that says, "Part 2 Brochures". This is written in brochure format, which is a bit more user-friendly, but the data can be very dense, and many ADV brochures are lengthy.

  5. The first thing you should look at on the brochure is Item 5, "Fees and Compensation." It's very important to understand the fees the advisor charges because if you don't understand the fees, you will probably not understand the services.

  6. Once you have read through the material, you can use the information to decide whether the financial advisor is a good fit for you. Additionally, you should look for Form ADV Part 3, a “plain-English” summary of the information in Form ADV Parts I and II. This summary should provide further clarity into the advisor’s services and fees.

  7. Finally, don’t forget to verify the information in writing before you make any decisions. Ask questions if you don’t understand something or need more information.


Step 3: Look out for crazy disclosures and multiple-page descriptions of fees


Disclosure and fee descriptions should be avoided when searching for an investment adviser. Examples of crazy disclosures include information about crimes committed, regulatory violations, and client disputes. It is also important to be aware of firms charging commissions and the percentage of assets under management. This could indicate that the advisor may not have been honest about their fees or services. Multiple-page descriptions of fees can also be complex and difficult to understand, leading to potential conflicts of interest.


It is important to review Form ADV Part I to ensure that the fees charged by the advisor are reasonable. When reading a financial advisor's brochure, consumers should pay special attention to Item 5, "Fees and Compensation," to understand the fees charged for the services provided.


Step 4: Search for references from previous clients

  1. Check the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) website to see if the investment adviser is registered. This website is a searchable database that lists registered investment advisers, exempt reporting advisers, investment adviser representatives, broker-dealers, and mutual funds.

  2. Google the investment adviser’s name to see if any news articles about past indiscretions or lawsuits appear.

  3. Check the regulatory databases to see if the investment adviser has any disclosures, complaints, arbitrations, or settlements.

  4. Ask the investment adviser for references from previous clients.

  5. Examine Form ADV Part II for the investment adviser. This provides information about the adviser’s services, fees, and disciplinary history.

  6. Ask questions about who is providing the referral and what incentives are associated with the referral.

  7. Investigate the investment adviser's background to ensure they are qualified and trustworthy.

Step 5: Compare form ADV items 14, 15 and 16


Investors can compare the disclosure forms of investment advisers with Form ADV items 14, 15, and 16 by following these steps:

  1. Visit the SEC’s website and search for the investment adviser’s Form ADV.

  2. Once you’ve located Form ADV, look for the Firm Summary page.

  3. Click on the “Part 2 Brochures” button to access the investment adviser's details.

  4. On the brochure, look for Item 5, “Fees and Compensation.” This section will tell you how the advisor charges.

  5. Scroll down to Form ADV Part 3 (the Customer Relationship Summary), which requires SEC-registered investment advisers to prepare a “plain English” summary of the data presented in Part I and II. It will provide you with a more user-friendly format.

  6. On the Customer Relationship Summary, examine Form ADV Items 14, 15, and 16. These items provide information about any material conflicts of interest that the adviser may have in providing their services.

  7. Compare the fees and conflicts of interest described by the adviser in their disclosure forms with the details provided in Form ADV Items 14, 15, and 16.

  8. If the fees and conflicts of interest are consistent, you can consider the adviser reliable. If not, consider researching further before investing with the adviser.


Step 6: Review disclosures and examine relevance to the advisor's business


When searching for information about an investment adviser's public disclosure, you can review the disclosures and examine their relevance to the advisor's business. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Visit the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) site and enter the financial advisor's name.

  2. Scroll down and look for any disclosures. If they have no disclosures, you will see a green box with the number zero on the far left. If they have disclosures, the box will be red, and you should click and read what they are before moving on.

  3. Look for any potential criminal or regulatory disclosures. You may also find client dispute disclosures indicating that the advisor has sold a product or service that wasn't properly presented to the client.

  4. Visit Section 4, "Advisory Business," to get a description of the services the advisor provides.

  5. Review Section 10, "Disclosures About Your Relationships and Services," to learn about potential conflicts of interest when the advisor offers multiple products or services and has a complex business model.

  6. Read the Form ADV Part 2 brochure to get a more user-friendly view of the major aspects of the advisor's business.

  7. After reading the disclosures and understanding the advisor's fees and services, you will better understand whether a particular firm is appropriate for your needs.

Step 7: Check if the form ADV matches up with what the advisor says


Checking if an investment adviser disclosure form matches what the advisor can be done in a few simple steps.

  1. Go to the SEC website for the investment adviser's registration. Scroll down and click on the firm name that is hyperlinked. This will take you to the page called “Investment Adviser Firm Summary.”

  2. Click the button "View Latest Form ADV filed." This is the disclosure form.

  3. Look at Section 5 Section E of the Form ADV Part I, Compensation Arrangements. This should be consistent with what the advisor has said. For example, if they tell you they charge a percentage of assets under management, and you see that they also charge commissions, that should indicate that they either weren’t that honest intentionally or weren’t careful about how they explained their fees to you, both of which are of concern.

  4. Go back to the top of the Firm Summary page and click the button that says, "Part 2 Brochures." This is written in a more user-friendly format.

  5. Look at Item 5 on the Part 2 Brochures, called "Fees and Compensation." It's very important to understand the fees the advisor charges because if you don't understand the fees, you will probably not understand the services.

Following these steps, you can check if an investment adviser disclosure form matches the advisor's words.


Step 8: Check terminations that are real terminations


Checking the authenticity of investment adviser terminations is important when considering any investment or financial advisor. To start, look up the advisor’s ADV (Advance Disclosure Document), a form filed with the SEC and FINRA containing information about the advisor’s background and qualifications. When you examine the ADV, don’t be alarmed if you see a state registration “terminated” at the top of the list. That doesn’t necessarily mean the advisor was terminated due to misconduct; it could just mean they have moved to a different level of regulation, such as federal regulation if they manage more than $100M in assets.


Suppose you see terminations not followed by other registrations, such as at the federal level. In that case, this could be a potential red flag that the advisor got kicked out of the business for a violation. To further investigate the advisor's background, watch a mock video to get an idea of what real scams look like.


When researching, look for inconsistencies between what the advisor tells you and what you find out from the ADV. If the advisor refuses or cannot provide information, this could be a sign to walk away. Also, be aware of whether or not you are a “big fish” or a “small fish” in the advisor’s business. This should be considered if the advisor is starting their business or handles much smaller relationships than yours.


In addition, make sure the money is being held at a reputable, third-party custodial firm, such as Fidelity or Charles Schwab. This is a major lesson from the Madoff fraud and makes it harder for an advisor to take advantage of you. Check your regular account statements for this information.

How to Search for Investment Adviser Public Disclosure: The Ultimate Search Guide

Finally, ask questions if you notice hyper trading activity or proprietary investments that could benefit the advisor more than you. This is a major red flag if the advisor asks you to communicate outside the firm’s official channels. Always review your investments to ensure they are with reputable asset and fund managers.


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