In 2016, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association filed more than 150 comment letters and 24 amicus briefs, as well as hosting more than 100 conferences, trainings and development sessions.
And 2017 is likely to be just as busy for the organization known as “the voice of the U.S. securities industry.”
During a briefing for reporters in New York, SIFMA CEO and President Ken Bentsen outlined the issues the organization will be focusing on in the new year.
“Obviously we’ll have a new administration, a new Congress,” Bentsen said. “They will have their agenda, and that’s something we’ll obviously be prepared to respond to.”
Here are four of the advocacy issues that Bentsen highlighted as priorities for the organization in 2017.
A uniform fiduciary standard continues to be at the top of SIFMA’s key advocacy priorities for 2017.
SIFMA feels that the Department of Labor’s final fiduciary rule, which was issued in April, could result in less investor choice and greater cost, at the expense of those it attempts to help. In June, SIFMA and several other interest groups filed a federal lawsuit against the DOL to vacate the rule.
According to SIFMA, nearly 3,530 substantive comment letters were sent to the DOL on its recent proposal, which is more than 10 times the amount it received on its original proposal in 2010. SIFMA also says that nearly 300 members of Congress raised concerns regarding the proposal.
SIFMA has long supported an action by the Securities and Exchange Commission to establish a uniform standard of care for broker-dealers and advisors when providing personalized investment advice about securities to retail customers.
“I think our position with respect to the Department of Labor is extremely well known; obviously we’re involved in litigation with that,” Bentsen said. “We continue to believe that the SEC is the appropriate agency here.”
SIFMA and its members have been “very involved” in the agency review of Treasury market structure led by the Treasury Department and will continue to do so into 2017.
In January, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a request for information on the evolving structure of the U.S Treasury market. SIFMA responded in an April letter, saying that it believes the collective goal should be to maintain the deep liquidity and maximize resiliency of the U.S. Treasury market while ensuring efficiency, orderly operation and fairness.
“This is important because the Treasury market, in many respects, provides a different function than other fixed income markets and equity markets,” Bentsen said at the briefing.
According to Bentsen, the Treasury market is not just an investment instrument.
“It’s an instrument of monetary policy, it’s an instrument of financial regulation, it’s a benchmark,” he added. “It’s something that our members feel very strongly has to be handled very carefully. So we’re deeply engaged in that process.” Tax Reform
Tax reform is “certainly” something that is proposed to be high up on the agenda of President-elect Trump’s administration and the new Congress, Bentsen said. It is also one of SIFMA’s key advocacy priorities for 2017.
“[Tax reform] is something that we’ve been focused on for many years because many of Congress have been talking about tax reform – international, corporate and individual – and all of those issues affect our members and how they serve their clients,” Bentsen said. “So that’s something that we’ll be focused on.”
SIFMA is committed to promoting policies that it says grow the economy while yielding a fair and competitive result. The tax reform blueprint from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, signals a potential congressional path forward on tax reform.
According to SIFMA, the House Ways and Means Committee has held a total of 38 hearings and 18 markups over the past two congressional sessions to pave the way for tax reform.
SIFMA has placed infrastructure on its list of key advocacy priorities for 2017, saying the U.S. needs to invest in essential projects including highways, water and sewer systems, bridges, airports and more.
“Infrastructure finance is something that this industry is focused on a great deal,” Bentsen said.
While capital investment “stands at the ready,” SIFMA says that many borrowers are struggling to identify reliable funding sources to support debt service, return on capital and maintenance costs.
SIFMA is working with a network of experts to explore how it can make existing investment dollars go further for infrastructure projects, including the use of public-private partnerships; preserving tax-exempt financing for traditional municipal-bond financed initiatives; and using innovative approaches like a “design-build” procurement.
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