Don’t Create Uniform Fiduciary Standard for Broker-Dealers and Investment Advisers, Say Some Republicans to the SEC

House Financial Services subcommittee Chairman Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) is encouraging the Securities and Exchange Commission to refrain from rulemaking for establishing a uniform fiduciary standard that would apply to both broker-dealers and investment advisers unless the federal agency can come up with adequate evidence to support this action. Garrett made his views known at a Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises oversight hearing. Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) and Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) also echoed these same sentiments.

Says Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP Founder and Securities Fraud Attorney William Shepherd, “Washington is again bowing to Wall Street pressure to exempt them from liability for their wrongful acts. It is incredible that, considering the unmitigated investment fraud perpetrated on the American public in the last decade, Congress would even consider thwarting the very investors who elected them from receiving the justice they deserve!”

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s Section 913, the SEC has the authority to start up the rulemaking for this uniform fiduciary standard but is under no obligation. Earlier this year, the SEC put out a report recommending that it take up this rulemaking.

While Garrett questioned whether “hard factual data” existed demonstrating that a suitability standard is not enough to protect investors, others noted that it is a fiduciary standard and not a suitability standard that addresses cost, which impacts investors’ long-term performance. The majority of those that testified at the hearing also supported a uniform fiduciary standard that would apply to both investment advisers and broker-dealers. Consumer Federation of America director of investor protection Barbara Roper said that investors lose money when the person giving them investment advice must only meet a suitability standard and not a fiduciary one.

Meantime, while financial industry representatives have expressed support for a uniform fiduciary standard for investment advisers and broker-dealers, they don’t believe that it could be properly executed under the 1940 Investment Advisers Act.

Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association senior managing director and general counsel Ira Hammerman has said that the Act is unable to work with the business models for broker-dealer, while Financial Services Institute government affairs director and general counselor David Bellaire said that imposing a 1940 Act fiduciary duty on broker-dealers would decrease investor choice and decrease services, which would all significantly affect the market.

Currently, broker-dealers have to abide by a suitability standard, which is more lenient than the fiduciary duty standard for investment advisers. SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro has told staff that they need to recommend a proposal before the year is over.

Also up for discussion was the draft that Senator Bachus released last month mandating that there be at least one self-regulatory organization tasked with overseeing investment advisers. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is a top candidate for the role and has expressed interest in taking on this new responsibility. However, not everyone is a supporter of FINRA becoming SRO.

Republicans Urge SEC Not to Take Up Rulemaking on Uniform Fiduciary Standard, BNA, September 14, 2011

More Blog Posts:

Most Investors Want Fiduciary Standard for Investment Advisers and Broker-Dealers, Say Trade Groups to SEC, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 12, 2010

Fiduciary Standard in Securities Industry Doesn’t Need New Definition, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 26, 2010

FINRA Will Customize Oversight to Investment Adviser Industry if Chosen as Its SRO, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 8, 2011

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