The Democrats are finally getting their time with Robert Mueller this week. Mueller is set to testify for a full five hours before the House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. Democrats are seen as likely to push him to give further details on his investigation, especially into obstruction of justice claims, while Republicans are expected to probe him on bias within the FBI.
FINSUM: Everyone seems to agree—it is hard to imagine anything happening at these hearings that would change anyone’s mind.
In what comes as a real eye opener, the House passed a bill this week that would block the SEC’s ability to enforce its new fiduciary rule. The driving force behind the rule, you guessed it, Maxine Waters. The measure came as part of a broader bill regarding the funding of federal agencies. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it will likely be changed and then re-voted on. Democrats, who are in charge in the House, are worried the SEC’s rule does not go far enough to protect investors.
FINSUM: The interesting thing here is that this bill is likely not totally dead in the Senate. We wonder how hard the Democrats will stick to this part of it.
A lot of brokers have been feeling good about the SEC’s best interest rule. While that may be misguided, the perception is that the rule is significantly less stringent than the DOL rule, and thus offers a better operating paradigm. However, developments with the rule are not looking favorable to those hoping for a loose regulatory structure. In House hearings recently, four out of five witnesses called to testify on the rule said that having no new rule would be better than having the BI proposal implemented. One top compliance firm thinks the SEC is moving towards a much more strict DOL-type rule, saying “We predict that the SEC is going to re-propose [Regulation Best Interest] to make it closer to a fiduciary standard because the states have come out [with their own initiatives]”.
FINSUM: We have said for some time that we do not believe the SEC rule will be implemented in anything near its current form. That is reality is looking ever more likely.
In what seemed an inevitable development, House Democrats are starting their push against the SEC’s Regulation Best Interest. The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets will devote a hearing next Thursday to the SEC’s new rule proposal. The chairwoman of the committee is Maxine Waters, who was a champion of the defunct DOL Rule. Waters has commented on the SEC BI Rule that “When you have investment advisers who are not acting in [clients'] best interests but acting in their own best interests, it does not bode well for our senior investors in particular”.
FINSUM: We think the SEC BI Rule is a long way from ever getting enacted and will likely experience significant redrafting before implementation.
Next week is going to be a media circus, as the odds of real Trump fireworks look likely to surge. The reason why is that Michael Cohen is going to testify at an open public hearing before the House Oversight Committee next Thursday. The committee, seemingly defending its actions, commented that “Congress has an obligation under the Constitution to conduct independent and robust oversight of the Executive Branch, and this hearing is one step in that process”. The questions Cohen will answer will concern hush money payments, potential Trump conflicts of interest etc, but will not touch on Mueller’s probe into Russian interference.
FINSUM: No matter how you feel about Cohen, or whether you think this is just political theatre, the odds of a media bombshell, true or not, seem high.