President Trump plans to order a rollback Friday of regulations governing the financial services industry and Wall Street under the Dodd-Frank law and beyond, a White House source confirmed.
Gary Cohn, White House Economic Council director, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published last night that the administration would also move against a regulation designed to force retirement advisers to work in the best interest of their clients. That “fiduciary rule” is set to take effect in April. Promulgated by the Department of Labor, it’s meant to eliminate conflicts-of-interest among professionals dealing with people enrolled in qualified retirement plans and IRAs.
In an interview with the Journal, Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, said the order was a “table setter for a bunch of stuff that is coming.”
The move, set for announcement at a White House meeting with business leaders, would be in line with Trump’s campaign pledge to “dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act and replace it with new policies to encourage economic growth and job creation.” The law is one of the most sweeping overhauls of the financial regulatory system in history. Among other things, it spawned the so-called Volcker rule, which limited the types of investments allowed by U.S. banks, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Financial Stability Oversight Council that’s supposed to control risks that affected the financial industry.
Trump’s administration is packed with Wall Street veterans. The actions Cohn described, which were also confirmed by a White House official, represent Trump’s first and most forceful effort to unravel the regulatory legacy of the Obama administration.
“Americans are going to have better choices and Americans are going to have better products because we’re not going to burden the banks with literally hundreds of billions of dollars of regulatory costs every year,” Cohn told the Journal.
The Dodd-Frank Act, hated by Wall Street and Republican members of Congress, was enacted in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 that brought on the Great Recession and during the presidential campaign was described derisively by many Republican leaders as “Obamacare for banks.”
Republicans have vowed to scrap the law as well. But as it is basically constructed of thousands of pages of regulations promulgated since its enactment, it is susceptible to effective dismantling by modifying or rescinding regulations and guidance actions issued by a multitude of agencies, including but not limited to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board. The 850-page law required some 400 rules, some of which have yet to be completed.
Trump is taking the same approach to the Affordable Care Act, signing an executive order on his first day in office giving federal agencies broad power to unwind its superstructure of regulations.
Consumer groups and many Democrats will likely do their best to aggressively challenge the changes to the Wall Street regulations through the regulatory process and no doubt through the courts.
Dodd-Frank, a signature piece of President Barack Obama’s legacy, was enacted in July 2010 after a brutal battle in Congress.
As The Post’s Brady Dennis reported, the law established an independent consumer bureau within the Federal Reserve to protect borrowers against abuses in mortgage, credit-card and other types of lending. It gave the government new authority to seize and wind down large, troubled financial firms, set up a regulatory council to monitor threats to the financial system and mandated oversight of the vast market for derivatives, the instruments that helped fuel the crisis.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau established under the law has been a particular target of Republicans since its creation, and the hostility has grown even more intense as it has pursued an activist agenda of cracking down on big banks and corporations accused of misleading consumers.
Cohn told the Journal that the White House could tame the CFPB simply by replacing Richard Cordray, its director, with someone else. “Personnel is policy,” he said.
As to the fiduciary rule, Cohn told the Journal that a Trump memorandum Friday would ask the Labor Department to either revise or rescind it entirely. “It’s a bad rule for consumers,” he said.
The rule, promulgated by the Department of Labor and set to take effect in April, requires brokers selling retirement investments to put the client’s interests ahead of their own. It’s designed largely to protect consumers enrolled in qualified retirement plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs.)
The rule is aimed at eliminating conflicts of interests that arise when brokers are, for example, getting commissions from mutual funds to steer investors their way, which may or may not be in the best interest of the consumer.
As Kiplinger columnist Steven Goldberg described the rule, it
Would prohibit brokers from providing advice that lines their pockets instead of looking out for clients’ interests. Under the rule, for example, it would be difficult for a broker to justify selling a client a high-fee mutual fund when an identical or similar fund is available at a much lower price.
Registered investment advisers are already bound by fiduciary standards in their advice to clients.
Cohn told the Journal that the rule is “bad” in part because it forces consumers into funds with lower fees even if they are not the best investments for them.