SEC gave DOL help in crafting fiduciary proposal: White
March 24, 2016 by Nick Thornton
Testifying before a House subcommittee, SEC head says it provided assistance with DOL proposed fiduciary rule
Career staff at the Securities and Exchange Commission provided the Department of Labor “substantial technical assistance” as DOL crafted itsproposed fiduciary rule, according to testimony SEC Chair Mary Jo White gave lawmakers on a House of Representatives subcommittee.
Her comment was made in response to questions from Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia, who noted a recent report from a Senate committee that alleged DOL ignored input from SEC staff as the fiduciary proposal was drafted.
White explained that SEC advised DOL staff on various models of how broker-dealers are compensated on their services.
Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada, also raised questions about DOL’s proposed fiduciary rule, and called the prospect of whether or not the SEC and DOL will create separate new fiduciary standards the “800-pound gorilla” in the room.
Section 913 of Dodd-Frank mandated that the SEC study the need for a new uniform fiduciary standard, but did not mandate the agency create a new rule.
On more than one occasion during the subcommittee hearing, Chair White said she believed the SEC should move forward in writing a new fiduciary standard, and said that if the SEC does create a new standard, the objective would be to make it as “compatible as possible” with the DOL’s rule.
But she cautioned the SEC is a long way from issuing a new rule, as the decision to do so will require at least the support of two other SEC commissioners.
“It will be hard, and not quick to do this well,” noted White, who said the SEC has been studying the need for a new fiduciary standard for a number of years.
Though the two agencies have different statutory mandates, White said it is conceivable that each could write its own standard, as the SEC currently has parallel rules with other financial regulators that are not exactly identical.
The DOL’s proposal is expected to be finalized as early as next week. Under the proposed version, advisors to 401(k) plans with fewer than 100 participants and advisors to IRA owners will be required to effectively operate as fiduciaries.
The proposal does not outlaw sales of commission-based financial products, but it does create extensive new disclosure requirements that many stakeholders say will make commission sales all but obsolete.
Opponents of the DOL’s rule say the cost of complying with the rule will be passed on to investors, and that the fee-based model of compensation the rule clearly favors will price small accounts out of the advisory market.
Beyond articulating her desire for the SEC to move forward in crafting its own rule, White did not address specifics of the DOL’s proposal. But she did say that, “if we ended up depriving retail investors of reliable, affordable advice, then we will have failed in our purpose.”
The SEC is requesting $1.781 billion for next year’s budget, an 11 percent increase over last year’s. The increased budget would go in part to funding 127 new exam positions, and 52 new enforcement positions, White said.