In what seemed an attention-grabbing and worrying story, it appears that the DOL and SEC rules are merging into some sort of hybrid, but not in the way you might think. Despite the DOL rule being effectively dead due to a court ruling, the DOL seems to be pressing ahead and is planning to modify its Conflicts of Interest rule to mirror the SEC’s new language in its BI rule. “It’s the DOL and the SEC trying to end up in the same place in terms of regulation”, says a senior policy official.
FINSUM: While this is not as worrying as if the SEC were trying to mirror the DOL, it does seem like the DOL is pressing ahead with the regulation. Perhaps we have not heard the last of the fiduciary rule?
The SEC received over 6,000 comment letters in its public comment period for its new best interest rule. The regulator is currently reviewing those, but the big question is what is the rule’s implementation timeline? A top director at the SEC recently declined to comment on a timeline, saying “We are in the process of going through comments to see what changes if any we should be recommending”, but refused to give a date.
FINSUM: The anecdotal evidence and chatter we are hearing is that the SEC is going to try to move quickly to finalize and implement this rule. Stay tuned.
In a sign of just how wide-reaching the coming SEC Best Interest rule truly is, FINRA has just acknowledged that the Suitability Rule might be on the chopping block. FINRA’s Suitability Rule requires that brokers choose a product suitable for their client, but is a weaker standard than the proposed BI rule. “If [Regulation Best Interest] is adopted, then we would need to look at our rule set to see if any changes are appropriate … For example, is our suitability rule appropriate? But that is down the road. We need to see how Reg BI is adopted”, says Robert Cook, the CEO of FINRA.
FINSUM: This is not really a surprise, as the BI rule would basically make the Suitability Rule redundant. However, it is certainly a wake up call that things are changing quickly.
In a turn of events that stretches the boundaries of our understanding, Elon Musk took to Twitter yesterday to mock the SEC. The move comes in the same week that the CEO agreed to settle a suit with the regulator over his misleading tweets this summer. Musk tweeted yesterday afternoon that “Just want to [say] that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work … And the name change is so on point!”. Legal experts say the tweets jeopardize his potential settlement the SEC as they violate specific clauses of the agreement.
FINSUM: We know he is a defiant character, but this kind of behavior seems to show extremely poor judgment, if not borderline mental instability.
The fiduciary rule has been dead for about six months now—much to the delight of most advisors. However, in what we feel was an inevitable development, the rule is starting to make a comeback. With the new SEC best interest rule getting a lot of negative feedback from all sides, it seemed very likely that states would take matters into their own hands and development states-level fiduciary rules. That is exactly what is happening. New Jersey is now working on a fiduciary rule of its own and it seems likely many other states will follow suit. If that transpires, advisors could face a patchwork of national rules that would make compliance a nightmare.
FINSUM: This was inevitable. States feel like the SEC’s rule is not as rigorous in its protections as the DOL rule was, and thus they feel they need to take matters into their own hands.