Brokers, who are regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, must adhere to a looser "suitability standard," rather than the stricter fiduciary standard. It simply means that brokers must choose products that are suitable for their clients based on age, goals and risk tolerance. On the FINRA site you can conduct a background check on brokers.
The SEC's Central Registration Depository lists any disciplinary actions taken against brokers and advisers, as well as the firms for which they work. Another good source is the North American Securities Administrators Association, an organization comprising consumer groups, state securities regulators and investment providers dedicated to investor protections. The NASAA published a guide about investment professionals called "Cutting through the confusion" that's worth reviewing.
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards conducts investigations of complaints filed against Certified Financial Planners and lists any disciplinary actions taken on its Web site.
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