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Commissioners Chime in on Best Interest Standard, Investor Education and Disclosure

“The retirement crisis is a tsunami that is rapidly approaching,” SEC Commissioner Kara Stein said in a recent speech. Stein noted the challenges investors face with saving for retirement and discussed solutions from a regulator standpoint, including working with other agencies to provide a model curriculum for schools and simplifying disclosures about investments for all investors. Stein also discussed the need to improve investment advice and investors’ expectations on the conflicts of interest present when they receive advice. “Simply put, most investors assume that someone who is giving them advice has to put the investor’s interests first,” Stein said. She added that regulators can meet investors’ needs by either raising the duty for all investment professionals so that it meets investor expectations or teaching investors to treat the advice that they receive from certain professionals differently. In a separate speech, Commissioner Hester Peirce also called for improvements in disclosures to investors and discussed the SEC’s proposed standard of conduct for broker-dealers, Regulation Best Interest. Peirce noted that some critiques of the proposal target the “the assertion that because broker‑dealers would not be subject to the same fiduciary duty to which advisers are subject, broker-dealers’ conflicts of interest with clients would continue to exist to the detriment of their clients.” She pointed out that proposed Regulation Best Interest would require disclosure and at least mitigation of any material financial conflict of interest a broker-dealer may have with its client and added that the regulation will make it easier to bring enforcement actions against brokers who have subordinated their clients’ interests to their own.” The SEC is expected to release its finalized standard of conduct and Best Interest regulations in September 2019. The Department of Labor is expected to release a revised fiduciary rule at that time as well.