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Galvin Signs Off on Massachusetts Fiduciary Rule

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William Galvin, Massachusetts' top securities regulator. William Galvin, Massachusetts’ top securities regulator.

After a preliminary comment period, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin — the state’s top securities regulator — has signed off on the state’s fiduciary rule.

”There will now be a formal comment period and hearing before the regulations can be promulgated,” a spokesperson for Galvin’s office told ThinkAdvisor early Monday.

The rule, which Galvin proposed in mid-June, would apply a fiduciary conduct standard on broker-dealers, agents, investment advisors and investment advisor representatives when dealing with clients.

Galvin said in a statement that he’s proposing the standard because the Securities and Exchange Commission “has failed to provide investors with the protections they need against conflicts of interest in the financial industry” with its Regulation Best Interest rule.

“My office has seen firsthand the serious financial harm that investors and savers have suffered as a result of conflicted financial advice,” Galvin added. “Investors must come first.”

Municipalities and pension plans would receive the full protection of the heightened conduct standard, Galvin said.

Members of Stradley Ronon’s Fiduciary Governance Group have said Massachusetts’ fiduciary proposal is “very similar” to the one floated by New Jersey and may indicate that “an emerging model of regulation with respect to uniform standards of conduct is afoot.”

The New Jersey Bureau of Securities held a hearing on its fiduciary plan on July 18, and is reviewing testimony and comments on its proposal before moving ahead. The earliest possible enactment of the rule would be one year from the date of publishing, or April 15, 2020.

Brad Campbell, former head of the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration said in late July that Massachusetts has issued “a very similar” regulation to the one issued by New Jersey, with both states calling for a uniform fiduciary standard.

“They would both put in place some rather troubling, in my view, restrictions that would have pretty negative effects on the availability of transacting compensation,” said Campbell, who’s now a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath in Washington.