Opposition to adviser oversight proposal gains big supporter
Opposition is mounting to a bill that would shift the oversight of investment advisers from the SEC to a separate agency — perhaps the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc.
Schwab Advisor Services, a unit that serves registered investment advisers at Charles Schwab & Co. Inc., will join with other financial services firms next week to try and convince lawmakers to oppose the Investment Adviser Oversight Act.
In an e-mail to Schwab’s advisers on Wednesday, Bernie Clark, executive vice president of Schwab Advisor Services, reportedly said he will take part in an industry protest against the legislation. The joint lobbying effort, which will take place in Washington on June 7, is being organized by the Investment Advisors Association.
The legislation, which was introduced in April by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., would authorize the creation of one or more self-regulatory organizations that would report to the Securities and Exchange Commission. All advisers with retail clients would have to belong to one of the associations and pay membership dues.
“While we agree that changes are necessary to make sure that investment advisors are examined more frequently, we do not believe the way to get there is by regulating RIAs and broker-dealers as if they were the same,” Mr. Clark reportedly wrote. “We believe advisors are best regulated through principles-based regulation by the SEC, supplemented by more examination resources, as opposed to rules-based regulation and oversight by an SRO.”
On Tuesday, the Project on Government Oversight, a government reform group, sent a letter to the members of the House Financial Services Committee urging it to reject the Investment Adviser Oversight Act. The SRO measure is scheduled for a hearing before the panel June 6.
“Finra’s inherent conflict of mission, its lack of transparency and accountability, and its excessive expenditures on executive compensation and lobbying illustrate why creating an SRO for investment advisers will not serve the interests of investors, shareholders, consumers or other stakeholders,” stated the letter from POGO. “In addition, creating a private self-regulatory group for investment advisers would create significant costs and oversight challenges for the SEC.”
The POGO letter noted that Finra’s top 10 executives received nearly $13 million in pay and benefits in 2010.
Finra, which is promoting itself to fill the role of adviser SRO, said that the government oversight group’s letter ignores a key point in an SEC study in January 2011 about adviser oversight. The SEC report said that the agency lacked the resources to examine annually more than the 8% of the nearly 12,000 registered advisers.
The study recommended three ways to increase adviser examinations: allow the SEC to charge user fees for exams, authorize an SRO or expand Finra’s authority to include advisers dually registered as brokers. Each option requires congressional authorization.
“POGO’s position is not an acceptable or realistic response to the critical need to fill an untenable gap in investor protection in the investment adviser space,” Finra wrote in an e-mailed statement. “POGO seems to be OK with a regulatory regime where registered IAs are examined only once every decade, with approximately 38% having never been examined. One or more SROs overseen by the SEC is a proven way to augment government resources and to provide the needed