SEC Proposes to Enhance Protections and Preserve Choice for Retail Investors in Their Relationships With Investment Professionals

April 18, 2018

Published: The Securities and Exchange Commission

The Securities and Exchange Commission today voted to propose a package of rulemakings and interpretations designed to enhance the quality and transparency of investors’ relationships with investment advisers and broker-dealers while preserving access to a variety of types of advice relationships and investment products.

Under proposed Regulation Best Interest, a broker-dealer would be required to act in the best interest of a retail customer when making a recommendation of any securities transaction or investment strategy involving securities to a retail customer.  Regulation Best Interest is designed to make it clear that a broker-dealer may not put its financial interests ahead of the interests of a retail customer in making recommendations.

In addition to the proposed enhancements to the standard of conduct for broker-dealers in Regulation Best Interest, the Commission proposed an interpretation to reaffirm and, in some cases, clarify the Commission’s views of the fiduciary duty that investment advisers owe to their clients.  By highlighting principles relevant to the fiduciary duty, investment advisers and their clients would have greater clarity about advisers’ legal obligations.

Next, the Commission proposed to help address investor confusion about the nature of their relationships with investment professionals through a new short-form disclosure document — a customer or client relationship summary.  Form CRS would provide retail investors with simple, easy-to-understand information about the nature of their relationship with their investment professional, and would supplement other more detailed disclosures.  For advisers, additional information can be found in Form ADV.  For broker-dealers, disclosures of the material facts relating to the scope and terms of the relationship would be required under Regulation Best Interest.

Finally, the Commission proposed to restrict certain broker-dealers and their financial professionals from using the terms “adviser” or “advisor” as part of their name or title with retail investors.  Investment advisers and broker-dealers would also need to disclose their registration status with the Commission in certain retail investor communications.

Taken as a whole, the proposed rules and interpretations would enhance investor protection by applying consistent principles to investment advisers and broker-dealers: provide clear disclosures, exercise due care, and address conflicts of interest.  The specific obligations of investment advisers and broker-dealers would be, however, tailored to the differences in the types of advice relationships that they offer.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton stated, “The tireless work of the SEC staff has proven to me that we can increase investor protection and the quality of investment services by enhancing investor understanding and strengthening required standards of conduct.  Importantly, I believe we can achieve these objectives while simultaneously preserving investors’ access to a range of products and services at a reasonable cost.  The package of rules and guidance that the Commission proposed today is a significant step to achieving these objectives on behalf of our Main Street investors.”

The public comment period will remain open for 90 days following publication of the documents in the Federal Register.

https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-68

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