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.
The Democrats are mulling one their biggest risks heading into 2020. That huge decision is whether to make Medicare for all part of their platform for the next election. The House currently has no less than eight proposals for how to make Medicare available to all. None of them are likely to pass in the next two years as the Republicans have control of the Senate. However, adopting the goal of Medicare for all would be a major signal about the direction of the Democratic party headed into the future. The idea is popular with liberals, but more contentious with swing voters.
FINSUM: This is a high risk/high reward strategy. It could either become a major rallying cry or another reason for those in the middle to abhor the left-most leanings of the Democrats. Speaking from a politically neutral position, we do think this would be a good strategic move for the left, as one of the big challenges for the party is that President Trump and the right have grabbed the reins on shaping the vision for the future of the nation. This would be a chance for the Democrats to start to put forth their own cohesive vision.
One of the big concerns advisors should have right now is how the newly Democratic House might affect fiduciary regulation. Most will be aware that the SEC Best Interest rule was much lighter touch than the first version of the DOL rule. However, on top of the DOL rule making a return in 2019, the SEC could be derailed by the House. Maxine Walters, a staunch fiduciary advocate, will now head the House Financial Services Committee and it seems liklye the House will call SEC head Jay Clayton in for a questioning session where they press him to add a fiduciary element to the current Best Interest rule.
FINSUM: The exact path to derailing the SEC rule is still a little unclear. Because Trump has already appointed the heads of the relevant agencies, the House has an unclear ability to get in the way.