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Adviser groups open their wallets to reach members of Congress

May 12, 2014 @ 12:01 am

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

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(Gerardo Tabones)

Interest groups lobbying Congress on behalf of financial advisers spent anywhere from $20,000 to nearly $2 million in the first quarter of 2014, according to filings with the House of Representatives Office of the Clerk.

At the low end was the Financial Planning Association, which spent $20,000, the same amount it spent in the last quarter of 2013. At the high end was the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, which spent $1.9 million, an increase from the $1.3 million it spent in the fourth quarter of last year.

SIFMA, which represents large broker-dealers, also listed many more bills and other areas of lobbying interest than other groups, with a roster that included dozens of measures ranging from implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to tax reform.

The Financial Services Institute, which represents independent broker-dealers and financial advisers, spent $168,125 in the first quarter of the year, slightly less than the $174,750 it spend in the previous quarter.

Groups that represent insurers reached deeper into their pockets for Capitol Hill activity. The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisers spent $694,328 in the first three months of the year, up from $731,700 in the last quarter of 2013. The Insured Retirement Institute spent $70,000, compared to $50,000 in the final quarter of 2013.

The Investment Adviser Association, which represents registered investment advisers, spent $40,000, down slightly from $45,000 in the last quarter of 2013.

The Financial Planning Coalition, which comprises the FPA, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, also spent $20,000 on lobbying in the first quarter of this year.

While it is not a trade or lobbying group per se, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. spent $240,000 on lobbying expenses in the first quarter, about the same amount it spent in the fourth quarter — $230,000.

(See also: Financial industry groups oppose adding exam scores to BrokerCheck)

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In its filing, Finra did not elaborate on the legislation that is the focus of its efforts. In the lobbying issues section, it states, “Regulation of broker-dealers, securities industry and markets, investor protection and education.”

Finra has lobbied in recent years for consideration to become the self-regulatory organization for registered investment advisers, something it does now for stockbrokers. It claims to have abandoned that effort.

Several trade groups are set to hit Capitol Hill in coming weeks, sending their members to meetings with lawmakers to try to shape the laws under which they work.

The IAA has a day on Capitol Hill scheduled for June 12. The FPA has scheduled its first advocacy day in 14 years for June 24. So far, the group has signed up 50 of its members to meet with their representatives and senators.

“We're spending a lot more time making advocacy relevant to our membership,” said Karen Nystrom, the FPA's director of advocacy.

The FPA, which has a total of 23,000 members, is advocating for policies that would require all financial advisers to adhere to a fiduciary standard, under which they would be required to act only in the best interests of their clients. That's the bar that investment advisers meet, while broker adhere to a less stringent suitability standard when selling financial products.

“We're on the right side of fiduciary duty,” said Ms. Nystrom. “We're introducing ourselves as the good guys and good gals of the financial services industry.”

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