With a White House ally, Wagner takes aim at Obama's finance rules, consumer protection appointee

With a White House ally, Wagner takes aim at Obama's finance rules, consumer protection appointee
By Adam Aton
Rep. Ann Wagner has some ideas about how President Donald Trump could escalate his early moves to undo Barack Obama's legacy of financial regulations.  
Trump already has put the brakes on a Department of Labor rule that would have required investment brokers to act in their customers' best interest. Wagner, R-Ballwin, said Tuesday she's working on a bill that would build on that. 
The Labor Department rule, set to take effect in April, would have replaced the current, looser requirement that financial advisors offer guidance that's "roughly suitable" to their clients — a standard that invites conflicts of interest, supporters say, as firms steer investors towards financial products that earn them higher commissions.
Republicans like Wagner, who stood at Trump's side Friday as he signed an executive order delaying the rule, counter the rule would limit investors' choices and make financial advice more expensive for low- and middle-income investors. 
Wagner's bill would shift such regulations from the Labor Department to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the main agency tasked with overseeing financial transactions — and where the rules should've come from in the first place, she said.
Her legislation also could outline the guidelines that would replace the fiduciary standard. She declined to preview the bill's details, but did say she's in favor of a best-interest policy as long as it comes from the SEC. She said she will file the bill after the Senate confirms Trump's pick to lead the SEC. 
Democrats say the concerns over jurisdiction are a smokescreen to let financial firms continue steering investors towards products that line their own pockets. 
"Without implementing this program, then that best-interest standard will not be available," Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisc. said Tuesday, adding that Trump's voters elected him to stand up to Wall Street's influence, not indulge it.  
Since 2011, the financial industry has donated more than $560,000 to Wagner's campaigns, according to the watchdog site OpenSecrets.org.
Wagner, who chairs a financial services oversight subcommittee, also wants Trump to fire Richard Cordray, the Obama-appointed director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau whose term lasts until 2018. 
Under Cordray, a Democrat who served as Ohio's attorney general, the bureau has returned roughly $12 billion to 29 million people, according to a spokesman.
The agency has also drawn scrutiny after employees said they faced gender, age and racial discrimination in the workplace. An attorney at the bureau said she faced retaliation after reporting such discrimination. 
Wagner said those controversies justify Cordray's termination. Although she hasn't brought it up with the Trump administration herself, she said her committee will "continue to put the pressure on." 

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