Displaying items by tag: fiduciary rule
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.
The election is far from decided, but the outcome may very well fall into Biden’s favor. With that in mind, it is worth considering how the industry’s regulatory agenda would change were he to become president. He would almost surely replace Jay Clayton as head of the SEC, but the bigger questions are about Reg BI, the new DOL rule, and whether his administration would seek a strong fiduciary standard. Most industry lawyers think Biden would not seek to throw out existing rules and draft entirely new ones. That would take a great deal of work and time. Much more likely, it appears, would be amendments to Reg BI. The infrastructure of the rule is such that simple tweaks could make it much more robust. Chief among those changes would be defining what “best interest” means and changing the approach to enforcement.
FINSUM: If the SEC put a wide-ranging definition of “best interest” in place and changed to stricter enforcement, you would quickly have a much more robust rule.
Markets and polls are favoring Joe Biden to win the presidency, and markets think there are increasing odds that a blue sweep could occur. So if Democrats take over, what does the regulatory environment look like in wealth management? According to legal and policy experts there are a number of key changes. One big high-level difference between Trump and Biden is that Trump has always favored a principals-based approach to regulation in an effort to lower the compliance burden on companies. Biden would adopt a more rules-based approach with stricter enforcement. Here are five key items that would likely change under a new administration: restarting the debate on Reg BI (i.e. trying to get rid of it or modify it), move towards a rules-based approach in many areas, revive the CFPB, create a public credit reporting agency within the CFPB, and replace SEC commissioner Jay Clayton.
FINSUM: All of this makes perfect sense with what Democrats are signaling. We have another key item to add to the list—killing the new DOL proposal and replacing it with a more robust fiduciary standard either through the SEC or DOL.
Anyone who sell variable annuities, or even has a passing familiarity with the business, know that the headline above is a controversial one. The reason why is that the first version of the DOL rule caused annuities sales to drop. Even though that rule was vacated, it had already changed the structure of the market. However, Harvard is now saying the rule actually helped the VA industry. It says fees were lower and returns higher, that the rule did not force smaller investors out of the market, and that captive brokers put more weight on client interests. However, those in the annuity industry say the report is completely biased and that the researchers went in with the intention of proving the exact points they already assumed were true. Critics cited a number of flaws with the study, such as the methodology for calculating expenses and commissions.
FINSUM: While it is clear that variable annuity product suites, including fees and commissions, came down because of the rule, it does not seem clear that it helped everybody in general because of differing market access based on investor size.