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Trump's Deregulatory Push So Far Amounts to 'Inaction': SEC Counsel

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Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Human Capital, a newsletter by Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell about the people who shape the financial regulatory space.

Welcome back to Human Capital! On Thursday, President Donald Trump released a National Cyber Strategy, and Securities and Exchange Commission Counsel Connor Raso recently reviewed Trump’s big deregulatory push. How’s it going? So far it’s “one of inaction,” Raso reports.

Trump’s 40-page cyber plan aims to take “bold new steps” to protect the nation from cyber threats, and is hailed by the administration as “the first fully articulated” National Cyber Strategy released in 15 years, building on Trump’s executive order “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure” signed last May.

But is the commander-in-chief’s much-ballyhooed deregulatory push living up to its billing? Read on to see some of Raso’s in-depth review, which he penned for Brookings.

Has Trump’s Deregulatory Push Worked in Practice?

There’s been little analysis of how Trump’s executive order requiring agencies to eliminate two rules for every new rule has actually worked, Raso says.

With the order now 18 months old, Raso scoped out: How has the order actually affected rulemaking? Has it chilled regulation that imposes new costs altogether? Have agencies added new rules that impose costs while diligently eliminating old ones? Have agencies managed to skirt the order and issue rules that impose new costs without providing deregulatory offsets?

Since the order, Trump agencies have issued “very few new rules that imposed regulatory costs,” with most such rules being “required by statute or otherwise routine.”

From Trump taking office to July 15, agencies subject to the executive order issued only 39 “major rules.”

On the flip side, Trump agencies also did “relatively little deregulation outside of delaying and repealing rules issued late in the Obama administration,” Raso found. Case in point: The Labor Department’s fiduciary rule.

On balance, then, Raso argues: “The picture is one of inaction.” While the administration has “halted the growth of regulation that imposes costs,” so far it has “left the existing regulatory framework largely in place.”

One can look to the administration’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to see how Trump agencies have “done relatively little” deregulation, Raso notes, pointing to OIRA’s December 2017 list of all 66 total deregulatory offsets for fiscal 2017.

But hold on. OIRA’s list above only covers the first nine months of Trump’s reign, and the pace of deregulation seems to have picked up in subsequent months, he points out.

Efforts through mid-July concerning major rules “remain small relative to the total amount of federal regulation,” Raso states, but while major rules “do cover the most important subset of rules, they are not the entire picture.”

Agencies, he asserts, “undoubtedly completed non-major deregulatory rules,” so look for the next OIRA report to tabulate such efforts, “providing a more complete picture.”


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