SEC's Walter Says No Fiduciary Standard Rules This Year

SEC's Walter Says No Fiduciary Standard Rules This Year

Elisse Walter, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said Monday she doesn’t expect the SEC to implement a fiduciary rule before she exits her post at the end of the year.

Walter told attendees at FINRA’s annual conference on Monday that the regulator received several general comments following its 70-page information request in March, but the responses were not particularly data-heavy. Walter said she was hopeful that more data would come in closer to the July deadline in order to let the regulator make an informed decision.

“Imposing fiduciary duty is important, in large part because it’s a talisman, it really is a gold standard,” Walter said.  But regulators need to conduct a thoughtful analysis on the differences between the suitability standard and the fiduciary standard. “Some of them make sense and some of them don’t,” she added.

“There should be a uniform fiduciary duty rule that is imposed on both brokers and investment advisors that would include both the duty of loyalty and the duty of care,” Walter says.

And despite recent criticisms within Congress, the SEC and DOL are working together to harmonize their fiduciary duty standard initiatives, Walter says. “The inter-governmental coordination is at work,” she says. Concerns that a DOL rule would in essence foreclose brokers from putting clients into IRAs “will be taken into account.”

Walter also noted her opposition to a recent bill—authored by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) and passed by the House on Friday—that would require the SEC to conduct additional economic analysis before implementing rules.

She said the SEC has already held itself to a high standard of economic analysis. “This bill could truly keep us from moving forward effectively.”

Walter also touched on the move to lift the general solicitation ban on advertising for private investments, like hedge funds. This is one of Chairman Mary Jo White’s top priorities, Walter says, but there are challenges in getting a rule implemented.

“I agree with all sides of this debate,” Walter says, noting that she’s been a long supporter of lifting the ban.  “A lot of this debate is not about really general solicitation, but really about the affect of accredited investor definition.”

Calling the current definition of an "accredited investor"—which the commission is prohibited from substantially changing until the middle of next year—a “perennial albatross,” Walter recommended getting rid of the net worth standards and formulating a definition based off consumers’ invested assets.

She said, however, the challenges posed by the current definition should not hold up the SEC’s actions to lift the general solicitation ban.


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