SEC Reportedly Accelerating Work on its Own Fiduciary Rule

Implementation of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule has been delayed, and the rule may not have the teeth it originally did. But it would be a mistake to assume that means a complete demise for a new fiduciary standard for advisors. That depends in part on what the Securities and Exchange Commission does with its own fiduciary rule, work that reportedly is accelerating.

According to regulatory filings and “people familiar with the matter,” says the Wall Street Journal in a report cited by Program Business, SEC staff members have met recently with brokerage firms and trade groups on the matter.

The SEC hopes to propose its rule by the second quarter of 2018, the Journal reports, but it is possible that the SEC could act later than spring. It bases this on the seating of Robert Jackson and Hester Peirce as new SEC commissioners — the two were sworn in on Jan. 11, restoring the SEC to a full five members — and the possibility that they may want more time to consider the proposal.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in his Sept. 26, 2017 appearance before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs that he hoped his agency can “properly tailor” an approach that will best address issues related to those the DOL’ fiduciary rule concerns.

While the SEC is acting independently of the DOL, nonetheless there are connections. The Journal suggests that SEC action could also affect future revisions to DOL rules for retirement accounts. It reports that there are brokers that seek a DOL exemption for firms that are in compliance with any new SEC fiduciary standards. Such an action, it argues, would allow the SEC to resume regulation of all brokerage activity — including retirement investments — rendering the DOL’s fiduciary standard unnecessary.

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