August 7, 2018 / 8:06 PM / a year ago

Massachusetts regulator criticizes proposed U.S. brokerage rule

(Reuters) - A Democratic state regulator from Massachusetts on Tuesday blasted a proposed rule by U.S. financial regulators, saying it does not go far enough to protect investors from brokers who may have a conflict of interest and that if passed, the state would adopt its own rules to raise standards for brokers.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks at the Netroots Nation annual conference for political progressives in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman/File Photo

Opposition from the state’s influential Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren could pressure two Democratic members of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to vote against the SEC’s proposed Regulation Best Interest.

Without support from Democratic commissioners Robert Jackson and Kara Stein, Clayton would be forced to wait until Elad Roisman, the Republican nominee for the fifth Commission seat is in place, to pass the proposal.

Clayton’s office, Jackson and Stein did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The SEC on Tuesday wrapped up its three-month public comment period on the proposed Regulation Best Interest.

While Democrats are against the regulation, key trade groups such as the Investment Company Institute (ICI) and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) support the proposal.

The SEC’s rule would require brokers to act in the best interest of customers at the time a recommendation is made, and to provide greater disclosure about conflicts of interest.

In its letter, SIFMA applauded the SEC saying its proposal “significantly strengthens and materially exceeds the existing ... suitability standard.”

Currently, brokers are required to make suitable recommendations for a client, a standard overseen by the self-regulatory organization the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

The ICI also praised the SEC’s best interest standard, but said, “The SEC should clarify when and how a broker-dealer must address conflicts of interest.” The group recommended the SEC adopt the approach outlined in former President Barack Obama’s fiduciary rule.

The Obama administration’s polarizing fiduciary rule, which would have required brokers to adopt a fiduciary duty when advising on some retirement accounts, was vacated by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year.

Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts in New York; Additional reporting by Michelle Price in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker

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