Three Merrill Lynch teams that oversaw approximately $575 million in client assets departed for Morgan Stanley, according to people familiar with the matter.

Advisers Carla Erikson and Lisa Rinzler-Lubel parted ways with Merrill after three decades, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. They left the wirehouse partly due to Merrill's plans to cease offering commission-based retirement accounts, according to three people with knowledge of the team's move.

Unlike Merrill, Morgan Stanley has said it will maintain a commission offering under the fiduciary rule's best interest contract exemption.

Other advisers have left Merrill Lynch over its fiduciary plans. Two planners who recently switched to Raymond James cited the inability to offer clients commission-based retirement accounts. Like Morgan Stanley and other firms, Raymond James has said it would continue to offer clients that option.

Merrill Lynch may be softening its position. Following these teams' departures, the firm indicated last week that it may amend its policy, which it first unveiled in October.

The wirehouse "recognized that there may be limited situations in which a fee-based arrangement would not be in a client's best interests," Andy Sieg, head of Merrill Lynch, said in a memo sent to advisers and viewed by On Wall Street.

Sieg said that the firm is reviewing its policy following adviser and client feedback.

A company spokeswoman did not return requests for comment.

The Department of Labor is currently proposing a 60-day delay for the fiduciary rule's implementation date. The Trump administration requested the department review the regulation and possibly amend or rescind it.

VETERANS
Morgan's latest recruits are all long time Merrill Lynch advisers.

Erikson and Rinzler-Lubel joined Morgan Stanley's office in Alpharetta, Georgia. They report to branch manager Richard Vaughan.

Bloomberg News

In Salt Lake City, Morgan Stanley picked up two Merrill Lynch teams in late February, comprised of two advisers each. Branch manager Paul Shoemaker oversees the location.

Monty Willhite had been with Merrill since 1988, while his partner Brandon Ross had worked at the firm since 1996, per BrokerCheck records. Advisers Julio Gonzalez and David Sorenson are also Merrill Lynch veterans, having worked there since 1987 and 1989 respectively.

Morgan has started off the year on a strong recruiting push. Earlier this month, the firm said it recruited a six-member team managing $576 million in client assets. The StennerZohny Group joined the wirehouse in Palo Alto, California.

Despite some high profile departures, Merrill Lynch has also had some recent recruiting successes. The firm picked up a Morgan Stanley adviser who had overseen more than $600 million in client assets. Keith Rowling, 35, joined Merrill in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

In 2016, Rowling was ranked No. 2 on On Wall Street's Top 40 Under 40 list of the industry's top young producers. He was reported to have generated more than $8 million in annual revenues at the time.

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