Brokerage industry lobbying dollars dwarf investment advisers'

DOL fiduciary rule was a primary focus in first quarter

May 12, 2015 @ 1:35 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Interest groups that represent the brokerage side of the financial advice industry once again spent by far the most money lobbying for their policy agenda this year.

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association spent $1.98 million on lobbying in the first quarter, according to a report filed with the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

That number has held relatively steady over the last year. SIFMA, whose members span the financial services industry, spent $1.88 million on lobbying in the last quarter of 2014 and $1.86 million in the first quarter of last year.

The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors tallied $721,220 on lobbying during the first three months of this year, compared with $708,090 in the last quarter of 2014 and $694,328 in the first quarter last year.

The Financial Services Institute, which is comprised of independent broker-dealers and financial advisers, has spent $213,524 lobbying so far this year, a slight increase from $177,649 in the previous quarter and $168,125 at the beginning of 2014.

The numbers are a proxy for the clout of the brokerage industry, said Duane Thompson, senior policy adviser for Fi360, a fiduciary-duty consulting firm.

“They have more boots on the ground and a lot of voice in the halls of Congress,” Mr. Thompson said. “You can't always go by lobbying expenditures [to determine effectiveness], but it is a strong indicator.”

A proposal by the Labor Department to raise investment advice standards for brokers serving retirement accounts has been a primary focus of lobbying this year.

The fact that Democrats are now asking the agency for more time in the comment period is an indication of the lobbying muscle of brokers, Mr. Thompson said.

Source: Office of the House Clerk, Center for Responsive Politics

Note: data as of 1Q 2015

Investment adviser groups' expenditures are a pittance by comparison.

The Investment Adviser Association spent $40,000 on lobbying in the first quarter — the same amount it spent during the first quarter of 2014, according to the House Clerk's office.

The Financial Planning Coalition — made up of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc., Financial Planning Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors — spent $10,000 on lobbying during the first three months of this year, and $50,000 in all of 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But lobbying expenditures don't capture the amount of time and effort spent plying regulators, such as the DOL or the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Thompson said.

“It really doesn't show the amount of regulatory activity,” he said.

Speaking of, the industry-funded broker-dealer regulator, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc., also lobbied during the first quarter, spending a total of $210,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. For all of 2014, Finra spent $870,000.

Another, bigger spender was the Investment Company Institute, mostly representing mutual fund firms. It spent $1.275 million on lobbying during the first quarter — the same amount it spent one year ago.


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