Ours is an industry in which litigation risk seems to come with the territory – but we were disappointed last week that the American Retirement Association, umbrella organization of NAPA – was sued by CFA Institute.
That’s right, CFA Institute chose to file a civil lawsuit regarding alleged trademark infringement with NAPA’s Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor name and program, claiming that it would result in confusion in the marketplace with their Chartered Financial Analyst name and program.
As one might expect, we were puzzled by, but vigorously disagreed with that notion. After all, the Chartered Financial Analyst program focuses on investment management professionals, while NAPA’s Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor program has as its exclusive focus advisors to workplace retirement plans who deal with ERISA’s fiduciary and prohibited transaction rules and regulations involving 401(k) retirement plans.
We were even more surprised because the issue had already been presented, and was currently under review by, the administrative tribunal of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
If any marketplace confusion needed to be dispelled regarding workplace retirement plan advisors, it is whether such advisors are acting in a fiduciary capacity or not. This is why the American Retirement Association has always supported a fiduciary standard and why we created NAPA’s Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor program in the first place – so that advisors wishing to hold themselves out as fiduciaries of workplace retirement plans could do so.
We remain steadfast in our belief that those willing and qualified to work as fiduciary advisors for America’s 401(k) plans need to be recognized, and consider NAPA’s Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor credential to not only be a vital element of their professional commitment, but a valuable reference for those plan sponsors looking to align themselves with plan fiduciary advisors.
Consequently, and while we remain open to an amicable resolution of this matter with CFA Institute, we will continue to offer and fully support the NAPA Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor credential.