Articles Posted in Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is looking at whether companies are stifling corporate whistleblowers. The regulator has submitted letters to companies to request a number of documents, including employment contracts, nondisclosure agreements, confidentiality deals, and settlement agreements entered into since the Dodd-Frank Act became law. SEC officials are worried that there has been a backlash against whistleblowers.

Some of the documents come with clauses that get in the way of an employee notifying the government about wrongdoing at the company, as well as about other securities law violations. Firms may even demand that employees give up their rights to benefits from government investigations, which takes away the incentive that is provided by the SEC whistleblower program.

Under the SEC whistleblower program, tipsters may be entitled to receive 10-30% of penalties collected if the information provided results in an enforcement action that brings in sanctions of over $1 million. In 2014, the regulator looked at over 3,600 tips about possible securities law violations. The number of tips has gone up in recent years. The Dodd-Frank Act bars companies from getting in the way of employees submitting such tips.

SEC Wants To Extend Temporary Rule Letting Dually-Registered Advisers Get Principal Trading Consent

For the third time in four years, The Securities and Exchange Commission wants to extend a temporary rule that makes it easier for investment advisers that are also registered as brokers to sell from the proprietary accounts of their firms. The regulator issued for comment its proposal that would move the interim’s rule expiration date to the end of 2016 instead of the end of 2014.

Under the temporary rule, dually registered advisers can either get verbal consent for principal trades on a transaction basis or give written prospective disclosure and authorization, in addition to yearly reports to the clients. With principal trades, a brokerage firm uses its own securities in the transaction.

The Federal Reserve will soon likely finish the rules that would force big foreign banks to follow the same requirements as their US counterparts are have been abiding by ever since the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. A number of these overseas banks are reportedly not happy with the crackdown.

Dodd-Frank was written so its rules regarding capital would also be applicable to foreign banks. But when the legislation became active, some of these foreign banks changed their American outfits’ legal status so that portions of the act no longer applied to them. This let them get out of having to put huge quantities of capital into their US units to meet the requirements of the law.

Since Congress made its huge overhaul of the financial system, Deutsche Bank (DB), Barclays, Credit Suisse (CS) and others haven’t had to comply with Dodd-Frank, which was supposed to enhance the financial buffer that banks have to keep up in the event of potential losses. (Because raising more capital may require selling new shares, can may weaken profitability measures.) Also, because certain banks have changed their legal status, it is now impossible for outsiders to obtain a clear understanding of their operations in the US.

At a recent event hosted by the Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) and the Roosevelt Institute, US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) called on the Obama Administration to break up Wall Street’s biggest banks. She also chastised regulators for not dealing with financial institutions that cannot fail because they are just “too big.” This means that because they are so integral to the economy, if the banks are ever in financial trouble, the US government would inevitably have to step in like it did during the 2008 economic crisis so that the entire financial system doesn’t fall apart.

During her speech, Warren spoke about the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, observing that three years after its enactment it the hasn’t solved this “too big to fail” dilemma. She pointed out that clearly not much has changed between then and now, observing that the four biggest banks (Citigroup (C), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), and Bank of America (BAC) are 30% bigger than they were five years ago. She also noted that the five largest institutions hold over half of the bank assets in the US.

Warren wants to know when the government was going to start ensuring that large Wall Street institutions can’t take the economy down again while leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. She believes her 21st Century Glass Steagall Act could solve this “too big to fail” problem, while making turning these dismantled, smaller banks into institutions that are no longer too big to run, regulate, pursue, or prosecute.

US House Passes A Bill Prohibiting the US Labor Department DOL From Amending Its Definition of “Fiduciary” Until SEC’s Uniform Conduct Standard is Established

A bill that would not allow the Department of Labor to amend its rules regarding the definition of the term “fiduciary” until after Securities and Exchange Commission adopts its own rule that places broker-dealers and investment advisers under a uniform standard of conduct has passed in the US House of Representatives. The DOL has been trying to revise its definition of “fiduciary” in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Those who voted to prohibit revising the definition have been worried about possibly ending up with two rulemakings that were inconsistent with one another.

Reg A Plus Offerings and Their Oversight Get Capitol Hill Debate

10 Democrats in the US Senate are calling on the Obama Administration to delay a proposal by the Department of Labor involving retirement plan-related investment advice until after the SEC makes a decision over whether to put out its own proposal about retail investment advice. The Commission is looking at whether it should propose a rule that would up the standard for brokers who give this type of advice. The lawmakers are worried that the two rules might conflict and obligate investment advisers and brokers to satisfy two standards.

Meantime, the Labor Department is getting ready to once more propose a rule that would broaden what “fiduciary” means for anyone that gives investment advice about retirement plans. Its previous proposal in 2010 met with resistance from the industry and some members of Congress. Even now there are also Republican lawmakers that want the DOL to wait until after the SEC makes a decision.

Commission Chairman Mary Jo White says she would like the agency to make this decision as “as quickly as we can.” Also, earlier this month she said it would be “premature” to talk about whether the regulator will change or withdraw a recent proposal to amend Regulation D to improve requirement for companies wanting a more relaxed general solicitation arena.

New Bill Pushes to Modify Registration of Certain Brokers Involved in Mergers & Acquisitions

A newly introduced bill in the US House of Representatives is seeking simplified registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission for brokers that facilitate acquisition and mergers for private companies with yearly earnings below $25 million and annual gross revenues of under $250 million. Currently, these brokers have to register as broker-dealers with the SEC and seek FINRA membership, but many of them don’t know about these requirements. The bill would exempt these broker-dealers from

Having to become a FINRA member, which means they would not be subject to regulation under the SRO. HR 2274 would amend 1934 Securities Exchange Acts Section 15(b). It seeks to lower regulator expenses of sellers and buyers of privately held companies that are smaller and need professional business brokerage services.

Citigroup (C) Settle $3.5B securities lawsuit Over MBS Sold to Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae

Citigroup has settled the $3.5 billion mortgage-backed securities filed with the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The MBS were sold to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and both sustained resulting losses. This is the second of 18 securities fraud cases involving FHFA suing banks last year over more than $200B in MBS losses by Fannie and Freddie. The lawsuit is FHFA v. Citigroup.

J.P. Morgan International Bank Ltd. Slapped with $4.64M Fine by UK Regulator

Many banks are reportedly greeting bipartisan Senate bill S. 710 with satisfaction, as it would exempt them from provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act related to regulating municipal advisers. The bill was introduced by US Senators Patrick Toomey (R-Pa) and Mark Warner (D-VA) last month.

The Dodd-Frank Act established municipal advisers as a new class of regulated individuals that advise local and state governments about financial matters, such as the use of derivatives and bond issuances. Per the law’s Section 975, municipal advisers must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board. Critics, however, have called the SEC’s proposed definition of what constitutes a municipal adviser as too broad.

The senators’ legislation makes it clear that banks and those that work for them are not municipal advisers unless they actually take part in municipal adviser activities. It is similar to HR 797, which was proposed by US Representatives Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) earlier this year.

US Senators John Thune (R-SD), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Tom Coburn (R-Okla) have introduced a bill that would mandate that public pension plans reveal more information about the way they calculate liabilities and assets or place at risk the favorable tax treatment for bonds that are issued by the states and cities. S. 799 is a companion legislation to a bill that was recently unveiled in the US House of Representatives.

Like S. 799, SRLR 710 would make pension plans notify the Treasury Department about what assumptions and methods they use to determine assets, debt, and liabilities. Failure to abide by these tougher disclosure requirements would lead to the revocation of tax exemptions for specific bonds put out by municipalities and states. The senators’ bill also would prohibit federal bailout for any public pension funds.

Another Republican, Rep. Ann Wagner from Missouri, recently presented HR 1626, which would prohibit the Securities and Exchange Commission from being able to make companies reveal their political spending. The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), would amend the 1934 Securities Exchange Act.

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