This case relates to CFA Institute Standard III(A): Loyalty, Prudence, and Care, which states that members have a duty of loyalty to their clients, must act for their clients benefit, and must place client interests before their own interests. Under this standard, investment professionals, including municipal security dealers, must not engage in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice when handling client accounts. Charging excessive or lavish expenses for the personal benefit of the investment professional at the expense of the client can constitute a deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice that violates Standard III(A). All of the expenses incurred by Braun can, in some way, be considered personal or business-related expenses that should not be charged to the municipality seeking to issue the bonds.
In the context of conflicts of interests, the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct allow members to accept or provide modest gifts and entertainment done in the ordinary course of business (a gift basket at the holidays from a vendor or to a client, for example). But that “ordinary course of business” does not allow investment professionals to charge clients for obviously extraneous entertainment expenses tangentially connected to a business meeting. Even if Braun notified and received permission from his employer for his spouse to accompany him on the business trip, that permission cannot extend to treating the client unfairly by charging the client for the spouse’s expenses. And although busy investment professionals may be forced, by other priorities, to change travel arrangements when a trip on behalf of a client has already been scheduled, additional expenses resulting in the change most likely must be borne by Braun as an overhead cost, not charged to the client. (Under some limited circumstances, those expenses might be charged to the client necessitating that the travel changes be made).
It is possible that the savings in travel fees for booking a weekend travel schedule is greater than the additional accommodation and meal expense for Braun to stay in New York City the extra days, making the cost to the client lower. If this is the case, Braun would be meeting his duty of loyalty to the clients by choosing the most inexpensive travel schedule overall, thus limiting costs to the client. Under these circumstances, choice A describes the expenses most likely to be able to be billed to the client.
This case is based on an enforcement action by the US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.