Brokers all over the country have been nervous about enforcement of the new Reg BI rule since its implementation a couple weeks ago. While the law itself is understood, enforcement of its particulars is not, as there is no precedent or real world examples to go on. For its part, FINRA recently made comments about its forthcoming enforcement policy. According to the Associate General Counsel of FINRA, “by and large, we're going to be looking at the compliance obligations of policies procedures and training, and we're not looking at it to say
‘did a firm do everything the way that we would have done it,’ or ‘did they do everything perfectly.’ We're looking to see do they understand the obligations, and do they make a good faith effort to implement the changes that needed to be made and incorporate those in their policies procedures and training.”
FINSUM: This is generally what firms have been expecting because it is what has been broadcast, but this is a little more comforting than previous efforts out of other regulators.
There has been a quite a bit of consternation over the current labor market, and with good reason. Over a million people have applied for unemployment assistance ever week for over 4 months. All told, over 30 million people have lost their jobs. However, there is an encouraging trend: unlike in past recessions, there is still plenty of hiring going on. New job postings have not plunged the way they did in the past. In previous recessions, including after the Crisis, a lot of unemployment had to do with a combination of attrition and a lack of hiring-much more so than outright layoffs. However, that does not appear to be happening now as job postings are still holding strong at their 2015 levels.
FINSUM: This is an encouraging sign for the economy and for individual job seekers. There is still a chance that demand hollows out—especially if we have another full scale lockdown—but for now things look positive.
Where do you stand on airlines? Your opinion is worth about as much as the whole market’s—nobody is quite sure what to make of the future of air travel right now. Airlines had seen rising passenger numbers, but that has been tapering off as COVID cases have been rising again. Delta announced dreadful earnings yesterday, with revenue down 88% and net losses worth $4.33 per share. Thy also announced they were cutting their flight additions for August in half because of the rise in cases. The earnings come alongside a bleak announcement from United, which said “it's increasingly likely that travel demand will not return to normal until there is a widely available treatment or vaccine."
FINSUM: Have airline stocks come back too far? It looks there is likely to be at last another ugly 18 months as we await a vaccine.
The market is split over dividend stocks. On the one hand, about half the market thinks the huge wave of dividend cuts are over and that most of the damage has been done. One the other, many worry that not all the deleterious effects of COVID have manifested themselves on corporate behavior and that further cuts may still be in the works. The overall picture seems to be one where caution is due given the big jump in valuations and the continued possibility of further cuts. For instance, bank and credit card companies look likely to cut further as high unemployment leads to worsening credit quality and more delinquency. Wells Fargo just announced a dividend cut, for instance.
FINSUM: Our thinking here is to be careful. Even if the economy does not have another lockdown, the full effects of this recession may take a little time to fully show themselves in dividend cuts.
The SEC’s new Reg BI rule has been in full force since June 30th. However, many brokers are still nervous about complying with the rule as the whole industry is still waiting on more practical guidance. Many firms feel reasonably comfortable following the principals of the rule, but certain items—rollovers being key among them—are still a little uncertain. The SEC has said it will take “good faith efforts” into account in this initial enforcement period, but that is not nearly as comforting as knowing you are following the letter of the law.
FINSUM: Given this is a whole new regulatory package and there is no historical precedent, anxiety is high. We expect new guidance will be issued soon.