House Panel to Debate Bill to Require Investor Testing by SEC
House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said Tuesday that the full committee would meet on March 26 to mark up the SEC Disclosure Effectiveness Testing Act, which was introduced during a subcommittee hearing to examine the securities regulator’s Regulation Best Interest.
The bill, HR 1815, was introduced by Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill., during a hearing held by the committee’s Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets, and would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to conduct usability testing on the agency’s new disclosure forms before finalizing Reg BI, a plan that the subcommittee’s chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said “is an excellent idea.”
Casten stated during the hearing that while he was pleased that the SEC engaged in investor-usability testing on the proposed Customer Relationship Summary disclosure form, or Form CRS, which is part of the SEC’s three-pronged advice standards package, he’s “concerned that they over-relied on surveys as opposed to in-depth interviews.”
During a March 14 hearing on Reg BI, Maloney stated that while the rule “may be an improvement on the status quo, it is still far too weak,” and that she still has serious concerns with it.
The first fault Maloney sees is that Reg BI does not subject brokers to a “full fiduciary duty,” like the Labor Department’s now-defunct fudiciary rule would have required. “Instead, the SEC’s rule says that brokers who provide advice to retail customers have to act in the ‘best interest’ of the customer — but refuses to define ‘best interest.’”
Further, Maloney argued, “instead of saying that brokers have to provide advice ‘without regard to’ their own financial interests — which Dodd-Frank specifically required — the SEC’s rule actually does allow brokers to take their own financial interests into account.”
The Reg BI proposal also “relies far too much on disclosing conflicts of interest, rather than simply eliminating conflicts,” Maloney stated, adding that the SEC must strengthen the rule.
Barbara Roper, director of Investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America, told the subcommittee that Form CRS needs to be “completely rewritten, retested and reproposed.”
The full committee will also mark up the following bills on March 26:
The Ending Homelessness Act (Waters)
HR 389, Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Act (Lynch/Budd)
HR 1500, the Consumers First Act (Waters)
HR 1595, the SAFE Banking Act (Perlmutter/Heck/Stivers/Davidson)
Waters and other Democrats on the committee held a media event in early March on Capitol Hill to reintroduce HR 1500, the Consumers First Act, which Waters said seeks to “reverse damage” done to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under former acting director Mick Mulvaney.
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