Where Donald Trump stands on top financial adviser issues

From regulation to tax and entitlement reform, these are the central decisions that will affect financial planners and clients in the years to come

Nov 9, 2016 @ 1:31 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Donald Trump
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Donald Trump (Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images News)

Donald Trump's victory in Tuesday's election has advisers and others in the financial services field wondering what comes next. The president-elect gave few clues about issues important to them during his campaign against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, choosing instead to focus more on personality than substance..

Still, many signature accomplishments of the Obama administration, such as a Labor Department rule to raise investment advice standards for retirement accounts, the Dodd-Frank financial reform act and the health-care reform law are now threatened.

“No one knows what's going to happen,” said Jason Rosenstock, a partner at ThornRun Partners, a government relations firm. “A Trump administration is a wildcard. It would be fair game on the entire Obama legacy.”

Mr. Trump will be joined in Washington in 2017 by Republican majorities in the House and Senate, but he will face challenges on Capitol Hill. Democrats will have enough members in the Senate to sustain a filibuster, while there was much tension during the campaign between Mr. Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.

Here's what financial advisers should watch:

DOL FIDUCIARY RULE

On first glance, it looks to be in limbo.

Prior to the election, one of Mr. Trump's advisers, Anthony Scaramucci, managing partner of SkyBridge Capital, said that a Trump administration “is going to repeal it.”

The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors forecasted “potential revision or repeal” in a statement Wednesday.

But Knut Rostad, president of the Institute for the Fiduciary Standard, said there's no evidence that Mr. Trump will fall in line with Republican and financial industry opposition. “Where, exactly, the DOL rule fits in the Trump vision is just not clear as of now.”

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION LEADERSHIP

Mr. Trump likely will have three positions to fill — chairman and two commissioners — on the five-member panel, which will have a Republican majority in his administration. Who he favors for the seats is a mystery.

“I'm not aware of any truly informed speculation of who the Trump administration appointments to the SEC may be,” said Neil Simon, vice president of government relations for the Investment Adviser Association.

SEC RULE PROPOSALS

The commission is likely to be more industry-friendly during a Trump administration, though the current one has been criticized by investor-protection advocates for leaning too much toward the industry already. Even so, it has promulgated several rules lately, such as those pertaining to systemic risk in the asset management industry, despite operating with only three of its five members.

Summary of Mr. Trump's positions
• DOL fiduciary rule: Trump adviser has threatened to repeal the regulation.
• SEC leadership: Three positions on the commission will likely be chosen.
• SEC rule proposals: Expect less regulation and a general slowdown for what's now on the books.
• Health-care reform: Mr. Trump vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
• Dodd-Frank Act: A Republican bill would overhaul the measure.
• Tax reform: Mr. Trump's tax reform proposal is close to one already proposed by House Republicans.
• Federal Reserve: Mr. Trump has criticized Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and may look to make changes at the agency.
• Entitlement reform: Mr. Trump has expressed support for leaving Social Security and Medicare alone.

“We're going to see more skepticism about new, burdensome regulations,” Mr. Simon said.

But the agency won't necessarily move any faster.

Skip Schweiss, managing director of advisor advocacy at TD Ameritrade Institutional, anticipates that the election will further slow a proposal on third-party examinations of registered investment advisers.

The wait may be even longer for an SEC rule that would raise advice standards for all retail investment accounts. 

“That is not happening for some years to come yet,” Mr. Schweiss said. “I can't foresee a uniform fiduciary standard until 2019,” after the dust settles at the SEC.

HEALTH-CARE REFORM

In the waning days of the campaign, Mr. Trump vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Democrats on Capitol Hill may start to lose their will to defend the measure next year.

“There's no Ted Kennedy in Congress to lead that charge,” said Paul Auslander, director of financial planning at ProVise Management Group.

DODD-FRANK ACT

The Dodd-Frank financial reform law is also in danger. A bill introduced by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, would overhaul the measure.

“It's unlikely it would be accepted without substantial changes,” Mr. Simon said. “There is a real possibility that parts of it could be enacted into law in the next Congress.”

TAX REFORM

The Trump tax plan would, among other provisions, reduce the number of income tax brackets from seven to three, along with their rates; cut the business tax rate from 35% to 15%; and maintain current capital gains rates.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump's tax reform proposal moved closer to one that has been proposed by House Republicans, said Marc Gerson, a tax attorney with Miller & Chevalier. Republican control of the Senate and House also bodes well for major tax changes.

“The prospects for comprehensive reform are dramatically increased by last night's election results,” said Mr. Gerson, a former Republican tax counsel on the House Ways and Means Committee.

FEDERAL RESERVE

On the stump, Mr. Trump criticized Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, and accused the organization of keeping interest rates low due to political pressure from the left. He might want to make some changes at the agency.

ENTITLEMENT REFORM

Mr. Trump was hands-off during the campaign when it came to significantly reducing the federal budget. He also expressed support for leaving Social Security and Medicare alone.

That position could be strengthened by Senate Democrats.

“The things they will lay down on the tracks [to prevent] are cuts to entitlement programs,” said Mr. Auslander, who is active in Florida Democratic politics.

Regardless of the issue, working with Capitol Hill will be a major task for Mr. Trump.

“Trump cannot just do whatever he wants to do, even with a Congress that is politically aligned with him,” Mr. Schweiss said.

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