Where does Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Jo White stand on a uniform fiduciary rule? No one knows, but that may soon change.
White said Monday that she would provide more “clarity” as to her position regarding a uniform fiduciary rule in the “short term,” despite the fact that the agency has not yet decided “whether to do something or what to do” regarding such a rulemaking.
Deciding whether to press ahead on a uniform fiduciary rule is “something I think is enormously important to do,” White said during a question-and-answer session with CNBC reporter Mary Thompson at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s annual conference in New York.
White declined to clarify to reporters on the sidelines of the SIFMA event how soon her opinions on a fiduciary rule would come, stating only that deciding whether to use the authority given to the SEC by the Dodd-Frank Act to put brokers under a fiduciary mandate is “an issue that I’ve been focused on since I arrived, and certainly in this last fiscal year.”
When asked by Thompson why the agency has delayed making a decision regarding a fiduciary rule, White responded: there are “very diverse views” at the commission regarding such a rule. The “inquiry as to what to do” regarding such a rule “doesn’t end with saying, ‘Let’s have a uniform fiduciary duty,’” as there are “a lot of different things that can mean.”
Added White: “Care needs to be taken to ensure we’re not harming investors by driving away service providers in the brokerage space.”
While White said that she’s “very committed” to a fiduciary rule and that it’s a “very high priority,” it’s a “quite complex issue,” particularly “in some people’s minds [as it pertains to] the ‘whether’ question, but certainly the ‘how-to’ question.”
White had said earlier this year that the agency would make a “threshold decision” by year end on whether to move forward with a fiduciary rulemaking.
Indeed, while fiduciary advocates have urged White to move forward on a fiduciary rulemaking with a split 3-2 vote, as both Republican commissioners — Daniel Gallagher and Michael Piwowar — have indicated their opposition to a fiduciary rulemaking, a split vote may not be needed, as Piwowar has recently appeared to change his tune.