In a back-and-forth with legislators at the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday, SEC chairman Jay Clayton said the agency may apply the same standards to brokers as it does to investment advisors, as part of its proposed Regulation Best Interest, according to news reports. Nonetheless, Clayton also seemed to suggest that advisors who are already viewed as being held to the more stringent fiduciary standard, can nonetheless get around it even now, InvestmentNews writes.
The requirement on advisors to act in their clients’ best interest is merely a “baseline standard,” the chairman said, according to the publication. Advisors are still permitted to “contract around this standard” via exceptions in their contracts with clients, which isn’t well known, according to Clayton, InvestmentNews writes.
"This is something that we want people to understand,” he said, according to the publication.
With that out of the way, however, Clayton also implied that brokers and advisors could be held to the same standard as a result of the planned regulation, InvestmentNews writes.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., questioned why the current proposal is keeping regulations on advisors and brokers separate if the requirements on both are the same and if investors are confused about the distinction, according to the publication.
"If it's the same, just use the same words," she said, InvestmentNews writes.
"We may do that," Clayton said, according to the publication.
The SEC’s current proposal has drawn sharp criticism for its purported lack of clarity.
Even the survey of more than 1,800 individuals conducted for the SEC by theRAND Corporation concluded that many consumers remain confused about different types of accounts and financial professionals.
During his appearance in the Senate yesterday, Clayton also refused to give a timeline for releasing a final rule, for which the SEC has received more than 6,000 comment letters, InvestmentNews writes. He did tell reporters after the hearing that the rule is “on the near-term agenda” and a priority for him, according to the publication. Clayton also refused to say whether he would put the rule to a vote before the commission is full again after Democratic memberKara Stein steps down by the end of the year as required, InvestmentNews writes. president Donald Trump has yet to nominate her replacement, according to the publication.