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House Committee OKs Smaller SEC Budget Raise Than Hoped For

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The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government approved by voice vote Wednesday its fiscal 2015 appropriations bill, which would give the Securities and Exchange Commission $1.4 billion — $50 million more than the agency’s fiscal 2014 enacted level but $300 million less than the amount requested by President Obama.

The subcommittee said that the SEC budget boost is “targeted specifically toward critical information technology initiatives” for the agency.

The bill now goes to the full House Appropriations Committee.

In addition, the legislation requires the administration to report to Congress on the cost and regulatory burdens of the Dodd-Frank Act, and prohibits funding to require political donation information in SEC filings.

Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., ranking member on the subcommittee, said Wednesday during the subcommittee markup that the SEC’s budget will be “severely underfunded at a level of $1.4 billion.” The amount, he said, is “simply insufficient to allow the agency to properly oversee Wall Street and protect investors.”

The budget boost will not likely be enough to help the agency add more examiners to oversee advisors. SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White told lawmakers in late April that the SEC’s 2015 budget request of $1.7 billion “would permit the SEC to increase its examination coverage of investment advisors, who everyday investors are increasingly turning to for investment assistance with retirement and family needs.”

The Financial Planning Coalition, comprised of the Financial Planning Association, the CFP Board, and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, said in a statement that the Coalition is “disappointed that once again Congress has refused to take a positive step to protect American investors by adequately funding the SEC investment advisor examination program.”

The Coalition noted White’s recent comments to lawmakers that additional funds were necessary in order to increase the frequency of examinations of the 11,000 registered investment advisors the agency is tasked with overseeing, which, at the current rate of once every 11 years, is unacceptably low.  

“This only highlights the need for Congress to move forward with pending legislation, H.R. 1627, the Investment Adviser Examination Improvement Act of 2013,” the Coalition said. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., would authorize the SEC to collect user fees from investment advisors to improve examination frequency. 

The lack of advisor exams “is too important to American investors to do nothing,” the Coalition stated.

But Neil Simon, vice president of government affairs for the Investment Adviser Association, told ThinkAdvisor in a recent interview that “action” on the Waters’ user fees bill in the House “does not look likely.”

That’s why IAA and a fairly broad coalition of advisory groups, Simon said, still remain focused on getting a bipartisan bill that mirrors Waters’ bill introduced in the Senate.

“The best opportunity to get [a user fees bill] enacted into law is a bipartisan bill in the Senate,” Simon said.


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