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Bloomberg Vows to Restore DOL Fiduciary Rule, Add Financial Transaction Tax

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Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg would restore the Labor Department’s now-defunct fiduciary rule as well as institute a .01% financial transaction tax, according to his just-released financial reform policy.

The three-term New York City mayor would also beef up the Volcker Rule and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as “accelerate” the creation of the Consolidated Audit Trail, or CAT.

Discussing the now-defunct Labor Department fiduciary rule, Bloomberg said that “investment professionals who work on commissions — such as brokers and insurance agents — often steer less sophisticated customers into expensive financial products and away from better, cheaper alternatives. The extra fees add up to billions of dollars a year, money that would otherwise go toward ensuring retirees’ financial security.”

Labor “issued a rule requiring such investment advisers to disclose conflicts and put clients’ interests first. The Trump administration has reversed the rule,” Bloomberg said.

Citing the “profound” impact the 2008 financial crisis had on the economy and “how close it brought the world to economic collapse — authorities everywhere should be doing all in their power to fix the flaws it revealed,” Bloomberg said. “Yet the Trump administration is rolling back what safeguards were put in place, and none of the candidates for president is offering a viable alternative.”

The 0.1% tax on all financial transactions, including stocks, bonds and payments on derivative contracts, “would be phased in gradually, starting at 0.02%, to monitor and minimize any unintended consequences,” according to Bloomberg’s plan.

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association reiterated Tuesday that it opposes a financial transaction tax. “A Financial Transaction Tax, or FTT, would tax middle class savers, including pension funds, 401ks and IRAs,” said Ken Bentsen, SIFMA’s president and CEO, in a statement. “At a time when market development, efficiency and competition are driving the cost of investing toward zero, it makes little sense to increase the cost through what is essentially a sales tax. Further, the threat such a tax poses to the efficiency of the U.S. capital markets is real. It begs the question, what’s the point?”

Under the Obama administration, the CFPB, Bloomberg said, “did important work,” including designing new, simpler mortgage documents; collecting and publishing consumer complaints; and recovering “tens of millions of dollars for wronged consumers and prosecuted cases such as the fake accounts scandal at Wells Fargo.”

The Trump administration “has undermined the CFPB, reversing some important rules and seeking to cut funding,” Bloomberg said. “And it lacks clear authority in problematic areas such as auto lending and credit reporting.”

Other notable components of Bloomberg’s plan include requiring more corporate disclosures involving climate risks and diversity, as well as college planning.

For instance, Bloomberg would:

  • Automatically enroll new undergraduate borrowers in income-based repayment plans, cap student debt payments at 5% of disposable income, and ease enrollment for current borrowers in income-based repayment plans.
  • Cancel unpaid balances on government loans to borrowers who attended failed for-profit colleges, relieve low- and middle-income borrowers of collection fees, and ban wage and Social Security garnishment and confiscation of tax refunds for defaulted borrowers.
  • Make it easier to discharge student debt in bankruptcy.

Bloomberg has qualified for the Democratic presidential debate Wednesday, his first. He is skipping the first four state nominating contests, hoping to make a big impact on March 3 — Super Tuesday.

— Check out Here’s One Tax Every Candidate Ought to Back on ThinkAdvisor.