Rulebook

SEC May Lack Sufficient Data for Fidiciary Rule, Industry Groups Cry Foul

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A senior official with the Securities Exchange Commission told Congress Thursday the regulator may not have sufficient data to move ahead on fiduciary rulemaking, but industry groups aren’t buying it.

In a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, the director of the SEC's Division of Trading and Markets Stephen Luparello said Commission staff were working on recommendations on how to proceed with a fiduciary standard. But he noted the regulator’s request for information in March 2013 did not yield the results staff hoped firms would provide.

“I think to a certain extent, the level of information that flowed in was less than the staff thought it would be and so one of the questions we have is if we are going to come up with recommendations, will there need to be a new round of information gathering?” Luparello said.

But the Financial Planning Coalition—which includes the CFP Board, the Financial Planning Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors—blasted Luparello’s suggestion the SEC does not have enough information to support its fiduciary rulemaking plans, saying it was time to end the delays.

“We fully support the SEC having sufficient information at its disposal to evaluate the need for such a rule. It is, however, disappointing to hear from a senior SEC official that the information the SEC has collected to date is ‘less than staff thought it was going to be,” the coalition said in a statement.

“The information, the evidence and the data is there. It is time to move forward. The longer the SEC delays, the more harm will be done,” the coalition said, noting it submitted joint letters to the SEC highlighting the harm to investors.

In questioning Luparello on the Commission’s progress on the initiative, Ann Wagner, R-Mo., said it was her understanding that there was not a lot of feedback received, adding she was concerned this is “a solution in search of a problem,” in that investors may not actually be suffering harm.

“I think it’s a fair question that you need to identify a benefit before you start to analyze the costs and benefits of these things,” Luparello said. “Obviously there are certain aspects of the fiduciary standard which provide enhanced investor protection, but again, cost and choice are things that have to be balanced against.”

Luparello also didn’t rule out working with FINRA and other existing framework to eliminate conflicts of interest and alleviate potential investor harm, rather than creating a new uniform fiduciary standard.  “One of the questions is whether there are enhancements for existing rules for broker-dealers and recognition of existing rules on broker-dealers that deal specifically with conflicts—that’s always an option that needs to be considered.”

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