Trump Moves To Aggressively Protect Wall Street

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Above Photo: Barack Obama signs the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act on July 21, 2010. Photographer: Win McNamee/Pool via Bloomberg

Trump to Order Dodd-Frank Review, Halt Obama Fiduciary Rule

President Donald Trump will order a sweeping review of the Dodd-Frank Act rules enacted in response to the 2008 financial crisis, a White House official said, signing an executive action Friday designed to significantly scale back the regulatory system put in place in 2010.

Trump also will halt another of former President Barack Obama’s regulations, hated by the financial industry, that requires advisers on retirement accounts to work in the best interests of their clients. Trump’s order will give the new administration time to review the change, known as the fiduciary rule.

Taken together, the actions are designed to lay down the Trump administration’s approach to financial markets, with an emphasis on removing regulatory burdens and opening up investor options, said the White House official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

The orders are the most aggressive steps yet by Trump to loosen regulations in the financial services industry and come after he has sought to stock his administration with veterans of the industry in key positions. His plans are sure to face fierce criticism by Democrats who charge that Trump is intent on undoing changes designed to protect everything from average investors to the global banking system.

He also could face a backlash from some of his own supporters, whose distrust of big banks and the financial industry helped fuel the populist anger that propelled Trump to the White House.

Banks ‘Shackled’

Trump is scheduled to issue the directives at a signing ceremony around noon following a meeting of more than a dozen top corporate executives led by Blackstone Group LP Chief Executive Officer Steve Schwarzman. Gary Cohn, director of Trump’s National Economic Council, is meeting with House Financial Services Committee members Friday morning, said two people familiar with his schedule.

Cohn said Friday on Fox Business that the executive orders are intended to relieve restrictions and scrutiny that post-crisis regulations have put on banks, and that firms have been forced to “hoard capital” rather than lend it out to their clients.

“All banks have been shackled,” Cohn said. “We need to get banks back in the lending business.”

On Monday, Trump promised to do “a big number” on the Dodd-Frank Act during a meeting with small business owners. He said the law had damaged the country’s “entrepreneurial spirit” and limited access to needed credit.

“Regulation has actually been horrible for big business, but it’s been worse for small business,” the president said. “Dodd-Frank is a disaster.”

What’s the problem with Dodd-Frank? — a Q&A explains

Trump’s Treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, will meet with members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and report back on what changes the administration should take to alter Dodd-Frank, the official said. Particular attention will be paid to the Volcker Rule limits on banks making speculative bets with their own funds, a restriction promoted by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

Immediate Impact

The official wouldn’t say how long the Treasury Department would have to complete its review, but did say that the administration would be looking for ways to make an immediate impact, including through administrative changes and personnel decisions.

Trump’s directive also starts the process of stalling the so-called fiduciary rule — set to take effect in April — that the Obama administration said would protect millions of retirees from being steered into inappropriate high-cost or high-risk investments that generate bigger profits for brokers.

The review will include examining making personnel changes at financial regulators as a way of accomplishing the administration’s objectives, the official said. They declined to answer a question on whether Trump would try to fire Richard Cordray, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The official did say the administration believed that some of the rules created under Dodd-Frank may have been unconstitutional, including the creation of new agencies, an apparent reference to the bureau.

Asked Monday about whether Trump would retain Cordray in his position, White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to answer. Mnuchin said during his congressional testimony that he believed the CFPB as a whole should be preserved but that Congress should take more direct control of its budget.

The Trump administration doesn’t believe Dodd-Frank measures, including the Volcker Rule, addressed real issues in the financial system, the official said. The president’s team also believes the Labor Department fiduciary rule was unnecessarily restricting investor choice without providing necessary consumer protection, the official said.

Read more: A QuickTake explainer on the Volcker rule

Republican lawmakers and some financial firms say the fiduciary rule is deeply flawed, arguing that it will restrict options for consumers and result in some savers being denied advice on their retirements. Trump will call for the Labor Department to stop and review the regulation in its entirety.

While the review will be undertaken independently by the Labor Department, the White House aide signaled that the president was expecting significant change.

Broader Overhaul

Delaying implementation of the Labor Department rule is the first step Republicans and the finance industry are eyeing as part of a broader overhaul of the measure. GOP Lawmakers have argued that the Securities and Exchange Commission, not the Labor Department, should oversee and regulate any changes related to financial firms.

Banks, asset managers and insurers have been fighting the fiduciary rule ever since the Labor Department approved it last year, saying the regulation could raise the costs of providing advice and make it harder to serve lower-income clients. Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Council of Life Insurers have sued to try to block it.

Still, representatives of some financial services companies said they planned to change practices to meet the regulation’s standard even if it is halted.

“We plan to go forward with the majority of the work we’ve done,” Bill Morrissey, managing director of business development at LPL Financial Holdings Inc., said in an interview before Trump’s order was disclosed. “What investors want is more transparency and lower fees.”

Morgan Stanley, one of the biggest U.S. brokerages, said on Jan. 26 it plans to move ahead with changes designed to comply with the rule, despite uncertainty over whether the regulation will be implemented. Insurers including American International Group Inc. and Principal Financial Group Inc. stressed after Trump’s victory that they would continue to forge ahead as though the rules would be carried out.

“My expectation is that a lot of firms are going to continue installing a best-interest standard, regardless,” said Brian Graff, chief executive officer of the American Retirement Association, a group that represents pension administrators and plan advisers.

  • chetdude

    We the People COULD “Move our Money”!

  • Ed Bennett

    Why is this so hard? Fiduciary in essence means to exercise Care, Obedience, Accounting, Loyalty, and Notice (I’ve always remembered it as: COALN)

  • kevinzeese

    Ha. I think you meant SHOULD! There are a lot of community banks and credit unions that are better than the big banks — why stay with Wall Street. Break away.

  • chetdude

    Actually, Kevin, I meant MUST! :-)