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Snoop, a welcome sight back from the antipodes, wrote:

As usual I defer to my favorite Florida legal expert (Albaby1) but I see a problem with your proposal. It would be very difficult for Bernard to avoid giving personal investment advice. Because both Bernard and TMF derive revenue from such an arrangement they would then be subject to SEC regulations. This would significantly change TMF's business model so I'm not sure they want to go there. To avoid such problems TMF would need to micro-monitor the premium boards (and the hosts to void TokyoJoe type issues) which is costly.

Hmmmm....I'm not a securities lawyer, and I can't claim any particular expertise in the field. However, my guess is that TMF could probably structure private boards for resale in such a way as to insulate themselves from liability for content, presumably in the same manner as the vanity press that once was Soapbox. There was some discussion on the matter on the Soapbox board back in May in the thread starting here:

TMF would claim that a content enabler (like a message board hoster, even for resale) isn't directly responsible for the content itself, but is more akin to a telecommunications common carrier. That seems a reasonable claim. It's not my field, but one thing's for sure - either way, the lawyers will make money. Cha-ching!

As for the prospect of TMF crossing that line in the sand and actually registering as an investment advisor, I think there is a real danger of potential damage to the brand.

After all, what is the TMF brand? The underlying message used to be one of empowering the individual investor, liberating them from the dubious financial products of the "Wise" ("No, not the Wise!"). The Brothers Gardner actually embraced their alleged lack of formal financial training and expertise, claiming that if an English major can effectively invest his own money, so can anyone. TMF was a self-help site, teaching investors how to invest on their own, with some sage advice on how to do so. Those notions of early and regular savings, reducing investment expenses, and eliminating consumer debt were important and valuable.

But there are no riches in consumer advocacy. Teach a seminar on how to avoid unnecessary expenses, and you're not likely to sell many T-shirts at the door.

Having spent five years warning investors not to diminish their returns by paying for the dubious investment services offered by the Wise, it's going to be very hard to reconcile TMF's message of individual empowerment with the notion that TMF has investment expertise. TMF has spent too long arguing that investment expertise is unnecessary, that any individual investor can do just as well as the professionals with just a little elbow grease. In fact, TMF has branded itself as the ultimate example of that philosophy - investors writing for investors. It's going to be really hard to change that brand identity.

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