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President Trump signed two directives on Friday, ordering a review of financial industry regulations known as Dodd-Frank and halting implementation of a rule that requires financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
Trump himself made his intentions clear in a meeting with small business owners Monday. "Dodd-Frank is a disaster," Trump said. "We're going to be doing a big number on Dodd-Frank."
These executive actions are the start of a Trump administration effort to reverse or revise financial regulations put in place by the Obama administration and seen by Trump and his advisers as onerous and ineffective.
Based on the description given by the administration official who briefed reporters, the directives the president is expected to sign Friday won't immediately do a big number on the law. The directive will instruct the Treasury secretary to meet with the agencies that oversee the law to identify possible changes.
"Americans are going to have better choices and Americans are going to have better products because we're not going to burden the banks with literally hundreds of billions of dollars of regulatory costs every year," said National Economic Council director Gary Cohn in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Cohn, who was president and COO at the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs before joining the administration, added, "The banks are going to be able to price product more efficiently and more effectively to consumers."
The president of the nonprofit Wall Street watchdog Better Markets issued a statement blasting Friday's actions.
"The American people trusted candidate Trump when he said he was going to protect them from Wall Street's recklessness, but President Trump has betrayed that trust," Dennis Kelleher's statement says. "He is unleashing Wall Street on Main Street, which is exactly what the financial protections of Dodd Frank were put in place to prevent."
Hinting at where the administration might expect the review to lead, the official said that under the Obama administration, "some of the rules may have even been unconstitutional, creating new agencies that don't actually protect consumers."
That is an allusion to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the consumer watchdog bureau which Republicans in Congress opposed from its very creation and was the subject of a years-long fight over its leadership and structure.
"This is not an attempt to undo Dodd-Frank," the administration official insisted before going on to explain that some of the work of changing regulations, including the so-called Volcker Rule to mitigate risks, could be done through personnel, putting Trump-allied people in charge at agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission.
It isn't clear yet how long the review would take, but the official says every aspect of the law will be considered.
A second directive would call on the Department of Labor to defer implementation of an Obama-era rule, known as the Fiduciary Rule, requiring financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients in retirement planning.
The deadline for implementation was supposed to be April. Echoing arguments of the financial services industry, the Trump administration official said the rule would have unintended consequences if allowed to go forward. The industry says the rule will make it harder for advisers to serve lower-income clients. Backers of the rule say it will prevent advisers from gouging customers by selling them inappropriate, high-fee products. Once the review is complete, the official said, it's possible the Labor Department could determine the rule is completely unnecessary.
This rule has been heavily lobbied and some financial industry organizations had been pushing for the Trump administration to delay it.
Key provisions of Dodd-Frank
Dodd-Frank, passed in 2010, is made up of many provisions across many different regulatory agencies, some of which — like the Labor Department's Fiduciary Rule — have yet to be implemented.
The intent of the law was to implement comprehensive safeguards to monitor and regulate financial institutions so their potential failures would not pose a risk to the entire economy.
Dodd-Frank established some key new institutions and rules:
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