The investing public apparently isn't included among Donald J. Trump's "forgotten men and women."
The president's populist rhetoric would suggest that he'd be watching the backs of everyday investors, setting policy to shield them from finance's seamier characters.
Reality, though, is that "forgotten" little guy and gal investors are in for a painful bait-and-switch. Instead of pursuing investor protection, Trump's idea of securities regulation is to focus on creating jobs -- code for stripping away rules that protect the investing public.
Trump's betrayal of his flock will kick in big-time if, as expected, he manages to delay or get rid of a potent pro-investor Department of Labor rule that companies are set to begin implementing April 10.
The DOL fiduciary rule, which would force brokers giving retirement advice to put investors' interests ahead of their own, has made the securities and insurance industries apoplectic and set off a string of lawsuits and proposed legislation attempting to undo the rule or delay it.
Trump signed an executive order on Friday halting new and pending regulations until his administration could review them, but it isn't clear that the order would apply to the DOL rule. InvestmentNews reported Monday that Trump will need to take a separate action to quash it, which he's expected to do.
Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America, says it would be a "clear violation of the Administrative Procedures Act" to try to undo the rule using Friday's order. Although companies don't have to begin complying with the rule until April, it has actually been in effect since June, she said.
One way or another, though, Trump's team is expected to try to kill it. So much for the spoils of populism.
Much as Trump deserves criticism if he helps finance's worst dodge the DOL rule, we can't blame him for all of the distress headed for the unsophisticated investor. The small investor was pretty much on the regulatory back burner even before the president was sworn in.
The SEC Regulatory Accountability Act, a brazen endeavor to overwhelm the Securities and Exchange Commission with administrative busywork, initially listed among its demands that the agency justify any attempts at passing a new rule by showing that it would "promote efficiency, competition and capital formation."
Those all are nice ideas as far as they go, but missing from the list of justifications for new rules was any mention of the agency's core mission: the protection of investors.
It's pathetic that this needed to be done at all, but New York congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez shamed her colleagues into adding the phrase "protecting investors"' before the bill was passed. Kudos to her, but you can't get away from the reality of the proposed law. At best, the welfare of investors was an afterthought.