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Bogle on Conflicts With the Fiduciary Standard

Christine Benz

Christine Benz: Speaking of advisors, there has been this push to get everyone on a fiduciary standard. I'd like your take on where we stand relative to the fiduciary standard right now.

John C. Bogle: Well, it seems to be very difficult to get anywhere. The Labor Department has been looking at it for retirement plans for I want to say forever, but it can't be quite that long. And the SEC is looking at it under Dodd-Frank Act rules. But there's a great lack in all that, and then as they're talking about fiduciary standards, it's all the participants in the system, except the money managers.

It's the money managers who are running $14 trillion; 70% of the market is institutionalized. A huge amount and there has to be a fiduciary standard for those big managers. I have written to SEC chairman Mary Jo White. I've written to the commission. I've written, chairman White, again. I don't know if these things get anywhere.

Oddly enough, it seems like sort of a one-man battle. The Investment Company Institute in its own wisdom tackles half of the equation. They say mutual fund directors are fiduciaries for the mutual funds shareholders. I don't know where they get that thing, but it's a statement. And they don't take into account the fact that corporate directors who run that management company are fiduciaries for the mutual fund standard, mutual fund shareholders, but they're also fiduciaries for the owners of the management company.

Benz: So we've got that conflict again.

Bogle: A direct conflict. Two separate fiduciary duties. As I've often said, it's always a good idea to cite the Bible, Christine. No man can serve two masters, and we are trying to do that in this business. And tragically as the Good Book tells us I think it's in Matthew, "For they will hate the one and love the other."

And I think the fiduciary duty that gets the love, is the fiduciary duty to the managers, who make earnings for [the management company] shareholders. So it's a conflict, and it's going to have to be resolved, maybe not in my lifetime, but you can't let it happen. It just stands out like a sore thumb in the long run.

Benz: Jack, it's always a treat to hear your insights. Thank you so much for being here.

Bogle: Great to be with you.