In one of the most-attended speeches of her campaign so far, Democratic presidential hopeful Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren outlined in New York City this week her plans for "big structural changes" to root out corruption in government. And she leveled her sights on what she seems to consider inadequate and ineffective regulation of financial advisors.
In her address, Warren, who regularly provokes antipathy in the financial advisory industry, cemented that reputation by singling out FAs and their regulators.
"So, it’s time for some new plans for our regulators. Far too many agencies act like wholly-owned subsidiaries of the companies they are supposed to regulate. When these agencies are captured, the results are collusion. Financial advisors who cheat people. Regulators look the other way. Enough is enough. Take down the 'For Sale' signs hanging outside of every federal building in Washington," Warren told an audience packed into lower Manhattan’s Washington Square Park.
Warren is not the only Democratic presidential hopeful to criticize the financial services industry. Former Vice President Joe Biden says workers, not Wall Street, built this country, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders talks about the “guts” needed to take on banks. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who dropped out of the presidential race, also focused on regulating the financial services industry, zeroing in on payday lending practices.
But no other presidential candidate has singled out FAs and their regulators as much as Warren, the mother of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who has also endorsed Gillibrand’s payday lending bill.
Warren's speech comes at a time when some state officials have also begun focusing on FAs and their regulators.
Just this month, the Attorneys General from New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon and the District joined force to file a federal lawsuit against the SEC and its Chairman Jay Clayton, seeking to undo the agency’s proposed Best Interest Regulation.
Have the industry and its regulators fought back in the arena of public opinion, trying to counter the negative portrayal of the financial services industry forwarded by some Democratic presidential hopefuls — Warren in particular — and the state AGs?
While Warren's comments on the regulation of financial advisors have so far been made generally, and not directed at any individual regulator, for this story FA-IQ posed the question to Finra, to gauge their reaction. Did they believe too many agencies act like "wholly-owned subsidiaries of the companies they are supposed to regulate?"
A spokesman said the industry self-regulator had no comment.
Yet not all are so quiet. Richard Hunt, who now leads the Consumer Banking Association and previously lobbied for Sifma, uses the Twitter handle @cajunbanker to voice his criticism of Warren's broader financial plans. Hunt argues that her proposed student loan forgiveness plan would disproportionately benefit high income earners, and tweeted: "On @SixtyMinutes there is [a] segment how @USPostService can't stop illegal drug delivery — yet @ewarrren @SenGillibrand want them in banking." The end of Hunt's tweet seems to sum up his perspective: "Absurd all the way around. #looney."