Kohl Amendment Changed to GAO Study

Manager's amendment will call for GAO to study whether financial planning should be regulated

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Senator Herb Kohl's (D-Wisconsin) amendment to the financial services reform bill that would create an independent oversight board to regulate financial planners will not be introduced as a separate amendment during mark-up of the bill today, March 22. Rather, a manager's amendment will include a provision calling for a GAO study of the issue.

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is attempting to get his financial services reform bill, which he released on March 15, completed quickly, and is therefore not including controversial amendments that could isolate Republicans on the committee, sources say. Published reports indicate that Republican Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) has said that the Senate Banking Committee would likely approve the bill today, Monday, March 22, with only Democratic votes. Corker said he envisions a full Senate vote after the two-week Easter break, which starts on March 26.

A GAO study of whether to regulate financial planners "makes sense," sources say, because House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank's financial services reform bill, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173), which was passed last December, also calls for a similar study.

Groups like the Investment Adviser Association (IAA) opposed Kohl's amendment, arguing it would have placed more regulation on investment advisors who are already regulated and abide by a fiduciary standard. As for the GAO study, Neil Simon, VP for Government Relations at IAA, says "it is entirely appropriate to study whether financial planning should be regulated as a distinct financial service provider, and, if so, how it should be regulated." Clearly, he adds, "there have been abuses involving persons who are not regulated under state or federal law who, [unlike] investment advisors, are [not] subject to a fiduciary standard."

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