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Regulation and Compliance > State Regulation

Chamber CEO Pledges to Push Bill to Rein In Regulators

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be “closely involved” as the Trump administration writes “new regulations to undo or replace bad ones,” and will be pushing to ensure the Regulatory Accountability Act is passed into law, Tom Donohue, the pro-business group’s CEO, said Wednesday during Chamber’s 2018 State of American Business address in Washington.

The Act would add new hurdles for agencies in proposing regulations, including requiring exhaustive economic analysis.

The Labor Department will be one branch of the administration that works this year to revamp its fiduciary rule.

David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the Chamber’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, told ThinkAdvisor after the Wednesday event that a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in the case the Chamber brought with eight other plaintiffs against Labor’s fiduciary rule is “absolutely needed,” as it will “give guidance to DOL on the challenges to its [fiduciary] approach.”

Plaintiffs in the 5th Circuit case included the Chamber, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and the Financial Services Institute. A ruling by the 5th Circuit had been anticipated in December.

During his remarks, Donohue said that a “major pro-growth” initiative that Chamber influenced in 2017 was “reining in the regulatory state after eight long years of regulation run amok” under the Obama administration.

In 2017, Donohue said, Chamber “helped unravel a slew of major Obama-era regulations,” and “we saw regulatory actions fall to a 17-year low, down 40% from their peak in 2011.”

“On health care and more, the administration must now write new regulations to undo and replace bad ones,” Donohue said. “The Chamber will be closely involved.”

Last year, Chamber, he continued, helped beat back “burdensome labor regulations that hampered business operations and harmed workers, and onerous financial rules that would have suppressed retirement investment and disadvantaged consumers,” referring to the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule.

Donohue also pledge that Chamber will continue “advocating for systemic regulatory reform,” including passage of the Regulatory Accountability Act, which passed the House last year.

The bill would require agencies to consider other alternatives, including amending existing laws, before making a new rule. Rules with an expected economic impact of $1 billion or more would require even more steps, such as soliciting alternatives from affected parties.

“We will get it through the Senate,” Donohue pledged, adding that the Regulatory Accountability Act’s passage “is crucial to preventing an onslaught of new rules under a future administration.”

The Center for American Progress, which opposes the bill, has written that “by hamstringing the dedicated public servants charged with ensuring everything from safe infant formula to clean drinking water to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, this bill would put corporate profits before people’s lives and livelihoods.”

Labor on Nov. 27 announced the official 18-month extension of the fiduciary rule’s enforcement provisions. During the delay, Labor plans to decide whether to make changes to the rule.

Hirschmann stated that writing a fiduciary rule proposal is a “priority” for SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and now that the agency has a full commission, “they will act on it at a reasonable time period.”

Chamber, he added, “plans to be engaged” after the SEC floats a plan, and hopes an SEC proposal hits the “sweet spot” of expanding access to advice while also allowing for a “transaction-based” approach, adding the such a rule should “preserve both business models.”

Chamber filed its comment letter with the SEC regarding a fiduciary rulemaking on Dec. 13, stating that “four criteria” should act as guideposts for a fiduciary policy.

Erin Sweeney, an attorney with Miller & Chevalier, told ThinkAdvisor on Wednesday that the 18-month fiduciary rule delay “has taken the heat off of the 5th Circuit” to render a decision.

A revamped fiduciary rule plan by Labor until likely won’t be unveiled until the fourth quarter of this year, Sweeney said, as the newly christened head of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, Preston Rutledge, is “getting ready to roll up his sleeves” and tackle any revamp. “He’s got a lot to do,” Sweeney added, namely formulating an economic analysis, which is “going to take a lot of time,” as are collaborations with other agencies like SEC and Treasury.


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