SEC Says Coronavirus Will Not Delay Reg BI, Form CRS

“The uncertainties caused by COVID-19 have not changed our perspective or commitment,” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton says.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton has publicly confirmed that the June 30 deadline for compliance with the SEC’s Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) rulemaking package remains in effect.

The dramatic events unfolding as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have caused the SEC to provide other forms of regulatory relief to financial market stakeholders, but as Clayton has confirmed, implementation of Reg BI is on track.

“At any time, and particularly in times of uncertainty, investment professionals should not put their interests ahead of the interests of their clients and customers,” Clayton says in a press release issued Thursday afternoon. “Reg BI codifies this fundamental principle. Investors should also know the services they are receiving and how they will be charged for those services. The Form CRS requires that.”

Clayton notes that, over the past 10 months, the SEC has engaged extensively with broker/dealers, investment advisers, retail investors and other market participants, as well as FINRA and other regulatory partners, regarding the implementation of Reg BI and the associated Form CRS.

“We believe firms with account relationships comprising a substantial majority of retail investor assets have made considerable progress in (1) adjusting their business practices, (2) supplementing and modifying their policies and procedures, and (3) otherwise aligning their operations and preparing for the requirements of Reg BI and the obligation to file and begin delivering Form CRS,” Clayton says. “Based on that engagement—and because the continued implementation of these conduct and transparency initiatives, individually and collectively, will significantly benefit Main Street investors—we believe that the June 30 compliance date for Reg BI and other requirements, including the requirement to file and begin delivering Form CRS, remains appropriate.”

Clayton says that, to the extent that a firm is unable to make certain filings or meet other requirements because of disruptions caused by COVID-19—including as a result of efforts to comply with national, state or local health and safety directives and guidance—the firm “should engage with” SEC staff.

“I expect that the Commission and the staff will take the firm-specific effects of such unforeseen circumstances (and related operational constraints and resource needs) into account in our examination and enforcement efforts,” he says. “With regard to continued engagement on Reg BI and Form CRS related matters, the SEC is functioning well in a mandatory telework environment.”