Wells Fargo Advisors has partnered with Merrill Lynch to tighten guidelines for accepting perks such as meals and gifts from third parties such as investment managers and insurance companies.
While Merrill Lynch has limited its advisors’ ability to accept gifts, meals and entertainment from wholesalers, Wells Fargo has only focused on meals, according to Wells Fargo spokeswoman Jackie Knolhoff.
She said the company was following guidelines issued by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra) in July that allowed third-party vendors to send consultants to ready-to-eat meals to be consumed during scheduled virtual meetings. “We also made a policy change to make this possible. The same applies to consultants and customers, ”she explained, saying that the meals are only intended for the meetings.
Knolhoff said no changes were made to Wells Fargo’s gift policy.
Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch released a memo to employees setting new restrictions on gifts, meals, and entertainment when interacting with product and service providers.
“We’re improving our policies on working with third-party product and service providers for gifts, meals, and entertainment. These changes also ensure that business interactions with third parties continue to be in the best interests of our customers, the memo states.
According to the memo, employees are allowed to accept new items with the name and logo from third parties, but they must cost less than $ 50. Matt Card, a company spokesperson, said employees could previously accept a gift worth up to $ 100 per employee, company, per year.
The bigger change, however, has to do with meals and entertainment benefits, including golf excursions, as well as tickets to theater and sporting events. Card stated that third party vendors could previously spend up to $ 300 per employee per event, so the total shouldn’t exceed $ 1,000 per year. Now employees can only accept third-party meals if they are associated with approved training or educational events.
The policy also made it clear that third-party providers cannot fund entertainment that Merrill Lynch provides to its customers, or provide entertainment to employees. However, it was advised that employees can attend third-party entertainment and meals provided that they are responsible for their own expenses.
The restrictions come at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has restricted the social interactions that traditionally constitute a large part of dealmaking among Wall Street salespeople.
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