Chances are the Securities and Exchange Commission announcement about its newly created Investor Advisory Committee will get plenty of eye rolls.
Chairman Mary Schapiro today announced the formation of the committee which will “give investors a greater voice in the Commission's work.” The committee will advise the SEC on investors’ concerns in the market and provide feedback on regulatory issues.
One securities lawyer who represents both investors and brokers says the committee is mere “window dressing.” The New Jersey-based lawyer says, “The question is: What is the purpose of this committee? You don’t need a committee to tell you what investors are concerned about. They all want to know why you missed Madoff.”
A New York-based lawyer who represents investors says he understands why the SEC would create the committee. “Mary Shapiro’s got to do something to restore investor confidence and this is one of the ways she’s trying to do that.” But, he says, it’s unclear how effective the committee will be in making any real impact.
Shapiro may also worry that her agency’s jurisdiction over investor protection is threatened. One regulatory proposal currently getting a lot of attention from the Obama administration would create a new regulator called the Financial Product Safety Commission (FPSC) to set guidelines for consumer disclosure and collect and report data about the uses of different financial products like mortgages, credit cards, car loans, life insurance and annuity contracts, even mutual funds. Shapiro has said she doesn’t favor “any model that would try to move investor protection functions out of the SEC.”
The advisory committee members include a mix of management level executives from firms like Charles Schwab and investor protection group leaders like Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at Consumer Federation of America.
“These aren’t real investors. They’re management and executives. If you want to reach out to investors you could, in theory, pick a cross section of investors like retirees who’ve been doing it for awhile. I don’t want to hear these people’s views on new products and regulations,” the securities lawyer says.
But Aite Group senior analyst, Doug Dannemiller, says, “The creation of an investor’s council at the SEC is a positive move by SEC leadership. Actions that they can take, at a reasonable cost, to stay in touch with the investing community are positive. Recent news, most notably with the handling of the Madoff ponzi scheme, indicates that the SEC can benefit from more listening to a fresh perspective.”