Four Years After Dodd-Frank, Uniform Fiduciary Standard Still Urgently Needed

Washington, D.C. – The Financial Planning Coalition – comprising Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board), the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) – issued the following statement on the fourth anniversary of the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act:

“The Dodd-Frank Act was born out of the financial crisis, and one of its central goals was to protect American consumers against the excesses of the financial services industry. Yet, four years after Dodd-Frank’s passage, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has neither proposed nor adopted a uniform fiduciary standard – a fundamental and much-needed protection for American consumers who rely upon broker dealers for financial advice and information. Section 913 of Dodd-Frank granted the SEC the authority to extend this critical investor protection.

“To make matters worse for consumers, the U.S. House of Representatives recently approved an amendment to the FY 2015 budget that prohibits the SEC from using any of the appropriated funding to adopt a fiduciary standard. This amendment would guarantee investors remain exposed to significant and unjustifiable harm, including higher costs, poorer performance and substandard products too often not in the investor’s best interest.

“The Financial Planning Coalition urges the Senate to reject this anti-investor amendment –which guts an important part of Dodd-Frank – and renews its call for the SEC to protect investors by adopting a uniform fiduciary standard for broker-dealers that is no less stringent than the existing standard for investment advisers. Such a requirement is long overdue.”

Financial Planning Coalition research shows that American consumers want the federal government to play an active role in protecting investors, including through the adoption of a fiduciary standard. In fact, in response to a 2013 survey,93 percent of respondents said that they agree with the statement that financial advisers providing advice “should put your interests ahead of theirs and should have to tell you upfront about any conflicts of interest that potentially could influence that advice” – the very definition of the fiduciary standard.

Financial Planning Coalition Launches New Website to Inform and Engage Stakeholders for Legislative, Regulatory Advocacy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Financial Planning Coalition – comprising Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board), the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) – today announced the launch of a new website  designed to engage stakeholders in the Coalition’s efforts to educate lawmakers, regulators and consumers on critical investor protection measures needed to ensure financial planning services are delivered in the public’s best interests.

The new website – located at www.FinancialPlanningCoalition.com – provides regular updates on the policy issues impacting the delivery of financial planning services to the public, and makes it easier for the Coalition’s nearly 80,000 stakeholders to take action on the issues.

“As the Coalition continues to advocate before policymakers for increased consumer and investor protection in financial planning, we recognized a need to revisit our web presence to more effectively communicate our mission and policy objectives,” said the Coalition. “Our goal is to ensure that the voices of financial planners are heard on the issues of importance to the public and our profession, including the extension of a uniform fiduciary standard of care to broker-dealers and greater investment adviser oversight.”

In addition, the Coalition sought to refresh its branding to better reflect the collaboration and cooperation inherent to this partnership in a distinctive, bold and contemporary fashion. The seal with interlocking letters forming the core of the logo is intended to represent this collaboration, while the color palette incorporates an element of each partner organization’s branding.

Financial Planning Coalition Applauds Rep. Bachus’ Co-Sponsorship of H.R. 1627

Washington, D.C. – The Financial Planning Coalition applauds Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), the Chairman Emeritus of the House Financial Services Committee, for becoming a co-sponsor of H.R. 1627, the Investment Adviser Examination Improvement Act.

This bill, introduced by Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), would authorize the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to collect reasonable user fees from SEC-registered investment advisers for the sole purpose of increasing the dangerously low number of examinations the SEC currently conducts.

“We commend Rep. Bachus’ decision, as well as the decisions of the 14 additional Members of Congress who have recently signed on as co-sponsors of this important investor protection measure,” said the Coalition. “This support demonstrates that investor protection is not a partisan issue and we expect to see the number of co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle continue to grow.  Further, their decisions highlight that a user fee is a sensible solution to the vexing resource problem at the SEC – a solution that industry supports and that has no impact on the federal budget.  We look forward to continuing to support this legislation and to working with all Members of Congress who want to improve protections for American investors.”

The Financial Planning Coalition is a strong supporter of H.R. 1627 as the most cost-effective, efficient and industry-supported way of providing the SEC with the necessary resources to protect American investors – particularly in light of Congress’ failure to appropriate sufficient funds.  Due to a chronic lack of resources, the SEC currently is able to examine only about nine percent of the approximately 11,000 investment advisers registered with the agency.  This amounts to investment advisers being examined at the unacceptable rate of about once every 11 years.

H.R. 1627 is a targeted solution to the persistent resource gap at the SEC that would: 1) limit the use of collected fees to the SEC’s examination program; 2) require that the SEC determine the fees through a public rulemaking; 3) require the SEC to take into account factors such as the investment adviser’s size and assets under management when determining a fee; and 4) require the Comptroller General to conduct an audit of the funds’ use every two years.

Financial Advisor: SEC Chair White Attacked For Weak Investor Protection

Ted Knutson of Financial Advisor reports that several consumer advocates have forcefully criticized SEC Chair Mary Jo White for slow and weak investor protection rulemaking, including the Commission’s failure to adopt a uniform fiduciary standard.

Excerpt– Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White was attacked for slow and weak investor protection rulemaking by several consumer advocates in e-mails and conversations with Financial Advisor magazine.

“Investor protection under Chair White has been virtually nonexistent. Her positions in the crowdfunding and private offering rulemakings and her false promises regarding the fiduciary duty reflect a strong anti-investor bent,” said SEC Investor Advisory Committee member and University of Mississippi Law Professor Mercer Bullard on Tuesday.

Investment News: House provides SEC with $50 million budget boost

Mark Schoeff of Investment News reports that the spending bill passed by the House of Representatives on June 16 raises the SEC’s budget by $50 million, but is $300 million less than the SEC needs to strengthen investment adviser oversight. Efforts by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) to attach an amendment allowing the SEC to charge user fees to make up for this budget shortfall were unsuccessful. The bill also includes an amendment barring the SEC from imposing a fiduciary standard on broker-dealers during the federal fiscal year beginning October 1.

Excerpt– The House of Representatives approved a spending bill Wednesday that denies the Securities and Exchange Commission the funding it says it needs to strengthen investment adviser oversight.

In a 228-195 vote, the House passed a $21.3 billion appropriations bill that funds the SEC, Treasury Department and many other agencies. The measure gives the SEC a $50 million budget increase, about $300 million less than the agency requested. Under the bill, the SEC would operate on a $1.4 billion budget in fiscal 2015, which begins on Oct. 1.

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Delay on Fiduciary Just as Harmful as the Actual Harm

Financial Planning Coalition Responds to SEC official’s suggestion that it may not have enough data to support a fiduciary rulemaking

Washington, D.C. – The Financial Planning Coalition – comprising Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board), the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) – issued the following statement in response to an SEC official’s suggestion that it may not have enough data to support fiduciary rulemaking:

“The Financial Planning Coalition has consistently urged the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to move forward with a rulemaking requiring broker-dealers providing retail investment advice to adhere to a fiduciary standard of care – just as investment advisers are required to do under the Investment Adviser Act of 1940.

“This requirement is not only long overdue, but it is consistent with Section 913 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Investor Protection Act, which gave the SEC the authority to take this action.

“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.’

“There is convincing evidence in the existing record that demonstrates the need for this important rulemaking. In response to some concern that harm to consumers was not sufficiently supported in the record, the Financial Planning Coalition – and several other organizations – jointly submitted a supplemental letter to the SEC highlighting the evidence of harm in response to the SEC Request for Information.

“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.”