(Dow Jones) State securities regulators are on the defensive again, confronting a Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives that could undermine their legislative agenda.
David Massey, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, or NASAA, called on Congress Wednesday to maintain a strong system of state and federal protections for investors. Unveiling the group's 2011 legislative agenda in Washington, he made the plea a day after the House Financial Services Committee's new Republican majority staff vowed, in a draft report, to "improve those parts of the [Dodd-Frank] act that work well while changing those parts that do not."
The report, circulated Tuesday by financial industry officials, stopped short of proposing a repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial law but is clearly aimed at curbing some of the law's overhauls.
"Due to political changes, we're dealing with a Congress that could be more sensitive to needs of business firms," Massey told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview on Wednesday. His group is "trying to find a way to combine effective regulation with the least amount of intrusion with businesses," said Massey, who also serves as North Carolina's deputy securities administrator.
NASAA, an organization of state securities regulators, lobbied heavily for numerous investor protection initiatives while Congress crafted its Dodd-Frank legislation during 2009 and 2010. These included more state oversight of investment advisers, improved funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission and requiring a fiduciary standard for brokers who give investment advice.
State securities regulators are now battling "a realization that certain [Dodd-Frank] initiatives didn't become confirmed or are solidly in place," Massey said. Numerous studies and rulemakings required by the legislation that may continue well into the future concern Massey.
"Even though goals have been set out, they require constant attention and monitoring to make sure original intent of the Dodd-Frank legislation actually take place at some point in time," he said in the interview.
Among other things, Massey wants lawmakers to consider allowing the SEC to collect user fees from registered investment advisers to enhance examination programs. "We'd presume an exam won't be done every year. It wouldn't be an ongoing cost, but an event cost," he said in the interview.
The SEC recently discussed user fees as one of three possible solutions in a recent study on the need for stronger examination and enforcement of registered investment advisers. It could be less costly than establishing a self-regulatory organization to oversee investment advisers, the study concluded. NASAA opposes outsourcing investment adviser oversight.
The group also called on the SEC to use its new rulemaking authority to establish a fiduciary standard for brokers who give investment advice and for registered investment advisers. Achieving that goal, however, may require a lot of persuasion. An SEC staff study released in January recommends such a standard, but Republican Commissioners Kathleen Casey and Troy Paredes, objected, saying the staff didn't adequately make its case. Further scrutiny by Congress, including a newly Republican-controlled House Financial Services Committee, is a likely next step.