SEC Chair Refuses Garrett Request To Shift Money To Hike FA Exams
DECEMBER 17, 2014 • TED KNUTSON
Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White has refused a request from House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling and Capital Markets Subcommittee Chairman Scott Garrett to shift money within the agency to increase registered investment advisor exams.
On November 24, the two Republicans urged White to “immediately” reallocate resources to raise exams beyond the existing 9 percent per year and tell them how she was going to do it.
But in a December 16 reply, White refused.
Instead, she tried to focus their attention on the agency’s success at increasing exams with the same staff in the recent past.
The SEC chairman pointed out the agency increased the number of advisor exams by 20 percent in the last year. With roughly the same number of workers, the SEC did thousands of desk reviews of some advisors to find out if on-site exams, better examiner training and stronger data analysis of advisory companies are needed.
With the increases in efficiency, the percentage of advisor assets under management examined rose to 30 percent in 2014 from 25 percent in 2013. At the same time the number of advisor exams per examiner increased to 3.9 from 3.2, White said.
While Hensarling and Garrett didn’t specifically call for taking money and staff away from broker-dealer examinations and putting it into advisor exams, White said she was against it as a possible reallocation because the move could weaken broker oversight.
In their letter, the congressmen asked White to provide a timeline for considering a voluntary or mandatory program of third-party audits for advisors.
In her response, White said she has asked her staff to explore this option. However, she noted in the past advisors have objected it would be too costly.
She said they were also concerned about standards of third-party compliance reviewers and the possibility of conflicts of interest because outside firms could also be hired advisors for other functions.
Since the Hensarling and Garrett letter was sent, Congress raised the SEC’s budget by 11 percent for the current fiscal year. White and her two predecessors have said repeatedly the SEC needs more money to adequately regulate advisors.