SEC commissioners cheer Clayton's efforts on fiduciary rule collaboration

Agency hopes to overcome past divisions on investment advice standard

Feb 23, 2018 @ 5:16 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

A new energy and spirit of cooperation that Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton has brought to the agency may help it overcome past divisions that have stymied an investment advice regulation, members of the commission said Friday.

The SEC plans this year to propose a fiduciary duty regulation. In fact, Mr. Clayton indicated Friday that it is at the top of the agency's rulemaking agenda. In tackling the issue, he's taking on its long history of fracturing the commission.

But things may change this year because Mr. Clayton has fostered collaboration among the agency's five members, according to Hester Peirce, a Republican SEC member who took office in January.

"I think it's going to be key" to advancing a fiduciary duty rule, Ms. Peirce said on the sidelines of the Practising Law Institute's SEC Speaks in Washington. "The fact that we're all sort of working toward getting something done is really helpful."

The Dodd-Frank financial reform law gave the SEC authority to promulgate a fiduciary rule. But it has been unable to act since then because commissioners couldn't agree on an approach to raising investment advice standards.

Things may be different this year in part because the SEC is trying to catch up to the Labor Department's partially implemented fiduciary rule, which requires brokers to act in the best interests of their clients in retirement accounts.

SEC commissioner Michael Piwowar, a Republican, said he is hopeful that all five SEC members can agree on a fiduciary proposal later this year.

"I have no indication that we won't," Mr. Piwowar told reporters on the sidelines of the conference. "I'm always an optimist."

During a conference panel, Mr. Piwowar interviewed Ms. Peirce and the other new SEC member, Robert Jackson Jr., a Democrat who also took office in January.

Ms. Peirce and Mr. Jackson both praised the atmosphere that they say Mr. Clayton has created at the agency. Mr. Clayton was sworn in last May.

"There is a new energy," Ms. Peirce told the audience. "I attribute that to the chairman, who has really come in with an outsider's view and has asked us how we can make things work better."

All three commissioners described Mr. Clayton as someone who emphasizes collaboration and productivity.

"He's come to the job wanting to get things done," Mr. Jackson said during his Q&A with Mr. Piwowar. "It's been really important and constructive in that respect. What he wants to do is find a way for us to work together."

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