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Monday, May 11, 2015

White Ponders the Enormous Complexity of Fiduciary Rulemaking

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

Mary Jo White is in favor of a uniform fiduciary standard for advisors with broker-dealers and RIAs, but she's keeping mum on the fiduciary debate over at another regulator.

SEC Chair Mary Jo White talks to reporters in her press "scrum" after her onstage Q&A at the ICI GMM on Friday
White, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), got on stage this morning for a Q&A with Paul Schott Stevens, president and CEO of the Investment Company Institute (ICI), at the 2015 ICI General Membership Meeting (GMM) at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C. In a "scrum" with reporters shortly after the session, White declined to comment specifically on the Department of Labor's (DoL's) fiduciary redefinition proposal that would impact advisors who work with 401(k) plans and IRA rollovers.

In the onstage Q&A, White responded to Stevens' DoL fiduciary regulation question (about "harmonization of rulemakings that effectively impact the same kind of activity") by noting that the SEC and the DoL are "separate agencies with separate mandates."

"The SEC staff has provided quite extensive technical assistance to the DoL," White said.

She also shifted the discussion to the debate over a uniform fiduciary standard for broker-dealer-affiliated advisors and RIAs, an idea she supports. (Though she did remind attending fundsters that, as her fellow commissioners tell her "from time to time," she has only one of five votes on the commission.) Some opponents of the DoL's efforts have been calling for the agency, led by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, to put its fiduciary redefinition regulation on the back burner until the SEC can get its uniform fiduciary standard done.

"The SEC is authorized but not mandated to impose a uniform fiduciary duty on broker-dealers and investment advisors," White said. "Any time you have essentially identical conduct ... that's regulated differently, you've got to think long and hard about whether that makes sense or not."

"It's enormously complex rulemaking," White added, noting that the uniform fiduciary standard she supports would "take into account the broker-dealer business model" by accommodating commissions and principal transactions.

White also revealed the appointment of veteran SEC staffer and acting investment management division director David Grim as director of the division. And she touched on a host of other subjects, including SIFIs, cybersecurity, the ETF exemptive relief process, and more. 

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