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Pensions & Investments: 2018 to Bring Changes to Congress

Pensions & Investments reporter Hazel Bradford writes:

Many on Capitol Hill watch are expecting the action in 2018 to shift to regulators at the Department of Labor, the SEC and the Treasury Department, which oversees the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

"The real play is going to be on the new people coming into the agencies," including the SEC, which has its first full commission since 2015, said Paul Atkins, CEO of Patomak Global Partners, a Washington financial services consultancy. Mr. Atkins, a former SEC commissioner, is optimistic the agency will address market structure issues that should be less partisan. "What's good for investors should be good for markets," he said. On the enforcement side, he expects SEC officials to press for more personal accountability of officials whose companies are prosecuted for investor fraud.

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In the NewsIanthe Zabel
Compliance Reporter Q&A with Paul Atkins

Jason Bisnoff, a reporter for Compliance Reporter, writes:

Paul Atkins is the CEO of Patomak Global Partners, a financial services consultancy focusing on strategy, compliance, enforcement and litigation located in Washington D.C. He is also a former commissioner at the Securities and Exchange Commission, appointed by George W. Bush.  Atkins spoke with Compliance Reporter about his expectations for potential deregulation during the Trump administration, and hot button issues, such as personal liability, that compliance teams should have top of mind.

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In the NewsIanthe Zabel
Real Clear Markets: "Should Tax Reform Dictate What Stocks Investors Sell?"

Paul Atkins writes in an op/ed in Real Clear Markets:

The tax reform bills moving rapidly through Congress ... would leave more in the pockets of working Americans and reduce the role that taxes play in financial decision-making, allowing people to take their own paths without much help or hindrance from Washington.

But one provision in the Senate version of the bill would restrict Americans’ ability to make their own financial decisions. The measure would dictate how investors manage their portfolios of stocks, bonds and other securities.

The Senate bill would mandate a first-in, first-out (FIFO) scheme. When investors who hold multiple positions in the same security decide that it is time to sell, the government would force them to sell their oldest shares first. Requiring stock sales to be made on this FIFO basis will usually mean higher taxes for investors who sell their holdings accumulated over time. The FIFO provision’s tax implications will limit the ability of American households to fully realize gains from successful investments.

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Opinion, In the NewsPaul Atkins
Forbes: How A 1920s Florida Citrus Land Baron Created The Acid Test For Crypto Tokens

Forbes reporter Chitra Ragavan writes: 

This year alone, technology startups have raised a staggering $3.2 billion through Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs, with the cumulative value of token sales skyrocketing by more than 1100 % in the past year alone, according to CoinDesk's ICO Tracker

Also known as “Token Sales,” ICOs enable startups to raise money for their projects by selling crypto coins as a form of equity both to sophisticated investors and the average public. This democratization of fundraising through ICOs has generated a level of excitement, some say greed, comparable to the old days of gold prospecting in the Wild West.

“Anytime you have new concepts that are disruptive to old ways of doing things,” says Paul Atkins, CEO of Patomak Global Partners, “That gets a lot of people interested and focused.” 

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In the NewsIanthe Zabel
American Banker BankThink opinion, "Treasury must seize opportunity to rein in SIFI powers"

Manley Johnson and Paul Atkins write in a co-authored opinion piece in American Banker's BankThink:

"The Treasury Department recently released a new report endorsing numerous regulatory reforms for U.S. asset managers and insurance companies and is about to release another report next week assessing the Financial Stability Oversight Council, an unaccountable regulatory body created in 2010 by the Dodd-Frank Act.

During the past seven years, FSOC has threatened to use its sweeping powers to subject asset managers and insurers to cumbersome, inappropriate bank-style regulation by the Federal Reserve, whose leadership lobbied for and embraced these nonbank regulatory powers. Treasury’s recent report endorses some policies that will undo the damage of this regulatory framework, but it can do much more. Fortunately, the upcoming Treasury report on FSOC and the pending ascension of a new Fed chair provide perfect opportunities to abandon Dodd-Frank-inspired regulatory hubris and begin improving economic growth and financial access..."

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Opinion, In the NewsIanthe Zabel
Morning Consult: Labor Department Needs to Re-Examine Its Analysis of Fiduciary Rule

Patomak Senior Advisor Craig Lewis writes:

As my students are back in lecture halls this fall, they are being reminded that it is more important to complete their assignments properly, rather than quickly.  Mistakes at the beginning invariably lead to disappointing conclusions. That’s a lesson worth repeating to regulators in Washington too.

Take, for example, the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, which went into partial effect in June with the objective of improving the efficiencies in the market for retirement services upon which Americans rely. The rule’s regulatory impact analysis, produced in April 2016, found that imposing a fiduciary standard on brokers would save Americans billions.

However, as my new white paper shows, the Labor Department’s projections were based on incorrect interpretations of academic research.

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Opinion, In the NewsIanthe Zabel
The Hill: Trump's Wall Street cop will clean up Obama's financial regulatory mess

In a guest column in The Hill, Paul Atkins explains that “between 2009 and 2016, critical operational issues and infrastructure problems were ignored as the SEC strayed from its tripartite mission of protecting investors, facilitating capital formation, and ensuring efficient capital markets.”

Atkins cites the suite of investment management-focused rulemakings advanced at the SEC in 2015 and 2016 as a prime example of the agency’s previously misguided agenda. The solution? Atkins writes that “the SEC should re-examine, modify, and potentially rescind overly-complex mutual fund regulations, such as its fund data reporting and liquidity risk management rules.”

Atkins argues the agency should address its well-documented organizational deficiencies and prioritize its statutory mandate to protect and enhance our capital markets. He says SEC Chairman Jay Clayton is the right person to do the job as his response to the recent discovery of the SEC’s 2016 cybersecurity breach shows.

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Forbes: Token Alliance Launches To Promote Best Practices For ICOs

Forbes reporter Laura Shin writes:

Monday, the Chamber of Digital Commerce, a trade association for the digital asset and blockchain industry, launches the Token Alliance, which aims to educate, promote and shape the world of crypto assets and token sales.

Its co-chairs have backgrounds that will be of great interest to token issuers: Dr. Jim Newsome, the former Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Paul Atkins, a former Securities and Exchange Commissioner.

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In the NewsIanthe Zabel
The Washington Examiner: Trump, GOP Want Regulators Out of Boardrooms

...But the push to rein in regulators is about more than a specific rule or law. The effort also includes changing the relationship between banks and government regulators, giving less discretion to government representatives and more latitude to bankers...

The Fed's mandate to ensure the safety of banks "justifies all sorts of secret, behind the scenes arm-twisting," said Paul Atkins, head of the financial consulting firm Patomak Global Partners and former transition adviser to Trump. The regulators' involvement "provides challenges for people trying to operate," he said.

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CNBC.com: To Reform the Housing Market, Get Rid of These Two Bloated Behemoths

By Paul Atkins

News of a bipartisan effort underway in the U.S. Senate to reform the housing finance industry is a welcome development, but the devil is in the details.

Almost a decade after the financial crisis, in addition to repairing damage caused by the flawed Dodd-Frank law, policymakers must work swiftly to wind-down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two institutions at the heart of the last financial crisis.

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The Hill: Trump's labor chief has a chance to set the fiduciary rule straight

By Paul Atkins

This week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s highly controversial fiduciary rule — crafted during the Obama administration — is slated to go into effect. Fortunately, it is not too late for Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to take decisive corrective action in light of recently changed circumstances to put the entire flawed rule on hold, but time is running out.

 

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