Hearings Abound in March on Tax Code Reform, SEC Funding, GSEs, and DOL's 'Fiduciary'

March is going to be a busy month for hearings, as the Senate and House tackle everything from reforming the tax code, housing finance reform, to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) budget, while the Department of Labor (DOL) will hold a public hearing on reforming the definition of fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

On March 1, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Max Baucus, D-Mont., will hold the first hearing of the 112th Congress on reforming the tax code. Subsequent hearings on such reform will be held throughout the year, according to a Senate Finance staff member. The first hearing is entitled, “How Did We Get Here? Changes in the Law and Tax Environment Since the Tax Reform Act of 1986.”

On the same day, the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., will hold a hearing to examine the Obama Administration’s report on housing finance reform—including reforming the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Rep. Steve Garrett, R-N.J., chair of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises, plans to hold a hearing on March 10 on the SEC’s funding. Garrett has been especially critical of the SEC’s mishandling of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, and is opposed to awarding the securities regulator extra funding.

Stephen Crimmins, a partner in the law firm K&L Gates in Washington, who spearheaded a letter from prominent securities lawyers to Congress urging them to boost SEC funding, says that the group of lawyers plan to follow up with lawmakers soon on their letter and possibly seek to testify at Garrett's March 10 hearing or at the House Financial Services Committee's March 15 hearing on budget views and estimates.

The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) plans to hold a public hearing on March 1regarding its proposed amendments to the term “fiduciary.” In testimony before Congress in early February, Mary Schapiro, the SEC’s chair, said that the agency is giving the EBSA feedback regarding its fiduciary definition, but that the agency was clear in stating that its study regarding putting brokers under a fiduciary mandate “does not deal with fiduciary [duty] under ERISA.”

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