Displaying items by tag: DoL
The general understanding among wealth management regulatory experts has been that the Biden administration was not overly likely to overturn Reg BI. However, that faith might be waning in the face of some developments out of Congress. The House Financial Services Committee, led by Maxine Waters, has been adamantly pushing for Biden to completely overturn the rule and bring in new legislation. To this point, most thought Biden would simply install a new SEC chair that would become a stronger enforcer of the rule rather than trying to write an entirely new one. And with the name of former prosecutor Preet Bharara as the rumored next head of the SEC, the focus on enforcement makes sense.
FINSUM: We wonder to what extent Biden might reward his Democratic allies in Congress by pushing an agenda that writes an entirely new rule. On the one hand, it does not appear too farfetched, but on the other, it seems Reg BI may be way down the priority list given the pandemic.
As of last Wednesday, Trump-appointed SEC chief Jay Clayton has departed, with an interim head now in place. That means the Trump era is effectively over at the agency. It is now Biden’s turn to take the reins, and according to industry experts, that likely means two big changes. The first is the type of SEC chief he will choose, and the second is the nature of Reg BI. On the chairperson front, it is rumored that Biden with choose Preet Bharara, a former prosecutor, which would be more in line with Obama era chief Mary Jo White. This would be a departure from Clayton, who is also a lawyer, but worked on behalf of corporate clients. Secondly, the nature of Reg BI would likely change in substantial ways. “Best interest” seems very likely to be defined under Biden; and additionally, enforcement efforts will likely be stepped up considerably versus the status quo.
FINSUM: Our instinct is the SEC is going to be a totally different animal under Biden, as a definition of “best interest” and rigorous enforcement efforts would significantly change the general wealth management regulatory environment. Plus, a prosecutor as head of the SEC sort of says everything you need to know what about what the enforcement regime might look like.
The House Financial Services Committee sent a very strong message to president-elect Joe Biden this week: dissolve Reg BI. Chaired by Maxine Waters, the committee said that the Trump administration had "taken several actions that have eroded shareholder rights, established regulatory barriers to shareholder engagement, increased issuer involvement in the proxy voting advice process and stripped away fundamental investor protections, including safeguards around private markets, where investors have few protections”, and that Biden should take care of the issue by getting rid of Reg BI, and separately, CRS altogether.
FINSUM: Industry experts seem to agree that the Biden Administration is unlikely to completely unwind Reg BI, if only because getting a new rule through would require Congressional approval. While that could still happen depending on how the Georgia runoffs go, it seems more likely the new SEC team would just employ very strict enforcement of Reg BI.
Joe Biden and the Democrats’ plan for wealth management regulation is becoming clearer as his inauguration date draws nearer. One big question on the industry’s mind is whether Biden will completely replace Reg BI with an entirely new package. According to former SEC lawyers, that seems highly unlikely. The reason why is that doing so would take an act of Congress, a high bar. Rather, what seems much more likely is that a new SEC chief is appointed an enforcement is tightened very considerably, with the emphasis moving to strict “by the letter” enforcement rather than principles-based enforcement.
FINSUM: This would be a big change. One of the aspects that really set the Trump administration era of enforcement apart was that it would focused on following rules in principle more so that “to the letter”. While this was not unique to wealth management, it was a definite change of pace that now seems likely to reverse.
As Biden takes the White House, all eyes in the wealth management industry are on regulations. Biden seems likely to take a much harder line on industry regulations than Trump did. The most focus is on the DOL, as the Biden team has made it clear that a “true” fiduciary rule is part of the agenda. No one quite knows if that will come from a tweaking of Reg BI or a restoration/update of the original DOL rule. One thing that has caught the attention of the industry is that Bernie Sanders appears a top candidate to take over the DOL, which could bring his unique approach, and almost certainly a new hardline fiduciary rule.
FINSUM: Bernie Sanders taking the helm at the DOL would be very ominous for wealth management. That said, one thing that has been clearly broadcast by the administration is that the DOL’s first agenda will be on healthcare (because of the pandemic) and secondly, it will be on raising the minimum wage to $15.