Joining the growing discontent with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Regulation Best Interest, Democrats in the House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation that could starve the quasi-fiduciary standard for investment advice of funding.
The maneuver relied upon an amendment to The Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act (H.R. 3351), which would fund the SEC and other agencies for the start of the 2020 fiscal year (Oct. 1). The amendment, however, prohibits the annual congressional appropriations process from funding the rule and the implementation of its various components.
“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Securities and Exchange Commission to implement, administer, enforce, or publicize the final rules and interpretations of the Securities and Exchange Commission titled ‘Regulation Best Interest: The Broker-Dealer Standard of Conduct,’” reads the amendment to the Act, which still faces uncertain passage in the Senate.
Earlier this month, the SEC voted to adopt a package of rulemakings intended to enhance the quality and transparency of retail investors’ relationships with investment advisers and broker-dealers, bringing the legal requirements and mandated disclosures in line with reasonable investor expectations while preserving access (in terms of choice and cost) to a variety of investment services and products.
Specifically, these actions include Regulation Best Interest, a new Form CRS Relationship Summary, and interpretations under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.
Under Regulation Best Interest, broker-dealers will be required “to act in the best interest of a retail customer” when making a recommendation of any securities transaction or investment strategy involving securities to a retail customer. It will enhance the broker-dealer standard of conduct beyond existing suitability obligations and make it clear that a broker-dealer may not put its financial interests ahead of the interests of a retail customer when making recommendations.
The Form CRS Relationship Summary will require registered investment advisers and broker-dealers to provide retail investors with “simple, easy-to-understand” information about the nature of their relationship with their financial professional. While facilitating layered disclosure, the format of the relationship summary allows for comparability among the two different types of firms in a way that is distinct from other required disclosures.
Among those critical of the rule was Commissioner Robert Jackson, the lone dissenting vote on the SEC.
“Rather than requiring Wall Street to put investors first, today’s rules retain a muddled standard that exposes millions of Americans to the costs of conflicted advice. Even worse, contrary to what Americans have heard for a generation, the Commission concludes that investment advisers are not true fiduciaries. [The rule] fails to arm Americans with the tools they need to survive the nation’s retirement crisis,” he said in a statement.