As Securities Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro prepares to urge Congress to approve a massive budget for the regulator, industry advocates are also pressing high-ranking members of Congress to support her request.
The SEC is asking for a budget of $1.4 billion, an increase of 28% from its $1 billion 2011 budget.
Last year’s enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act has dramatically increased the SEC’s workload, according to Schapiro’s statement. The agency is now charged with promulgating more than 100 new rules, creating five new offices and producing more than 20 studies and reports.
Aside from all of the responsibilities stemming from Dodd-Frank, the regulator has accomplished a lot in the past year. It reorganized its national examination program in response to changing Wall Street practices and lessons. In doing so, it also strengthened the program to work more consistently and efficiently across its eleven regions. Also, the SEC is working toward enhancing examiner training and recruiting specialists in risk management, trading, and complex structured products.
“In January 2011 alone, the enforcement division brought three significant cases stemming directly from exams,” according to Schapiro’s statement. “Going forward, the national exam program will continue to conduct sweeps in critical areas from trading practices to market manipulation to structured products.”
That is the sort of work that the Financial Planning Coalition wants the SEC to continue, according to is letter. “The United States capital markets have long been the envy of the world,” according to the letter. “But for many, the recent financial crisis shook investors’ faith in U.S. markets. Ensuring that the capital markets are well-regulated—including oversight by adequately funded regulators—is essential to restoring the confidence that will help lead the nation’s economic recovery.”
The group addressed the letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
It pointed out that although Congress faces a challenge in trying to manage the federal deficit and debt burden, the SEC gets it funding entirely through fees assessed on it’s the companies that it oversees, freeing taxpayers from the burden and eliminating its effect on the deficit.
Yet the coalition, which is comprised of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, the Financial Planning Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, identified some dire needs for more funding. “Due to current funding reductions, the SEC enforcement division is cutting back on investigations, important vacancies are going unfilled, and technology upgrades needed to deal with the daily influx of information have been cancelled.”
Level or reduced budget allocations to the SEC would jeopardize the regulator’s ability to adequately police the securities markets, and leave investors vulnerable to individuals engaged in financial scams and fraud, the coalition wrote.