As the House and Senate conferees ready to debate the fate of the fiduciary standard on Wednesday, June 16, industry groups are making last-ditch efforts to convince lawmakers that applying a fiduciary duty to brokers is “the single most important” consumer and investor protection in Congress’s reform package. Diverse industry groups like the Financial Planning Coalition, North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), and the Investment Adviser Association (IAA) came together to voice their support for the provision within the House version of reform which calls for brokers to adhere to fiduciary duty when giving investment advice to retail customers. The Senate version, on the other hand, requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to study gaps and overlaps in regulation of advisors and brokers and to initiate a rulemaking at the end of that study. But as Barbara Roper, director of consumer protection for the CFA, noted on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, June 15, the Senate bill “denies the agency [the ability] to raise the standards for brokers when they give investment advice.”
Denise Voigt Crawford, Texas Securities Commissioner and president of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), said during the conference call that the House version of reform, which establishes a fiduciary duty and calls for harmonization of regulations for B/Ds and advisors, “will align the legal amendments of broker/dealers with the expectations of their clients. There is an assumption by clients that their interests are first when seeking investment advice.”
It looks as though Senator Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) is the major hurdle in getting the House fiduciary language adopted. Johnson, along with Senator Michael Crapo (R-Idaho), crafted the Senate provision calling for the SEC study, and both serve as Senate conferees.