NEW YORK – SEC Chair Mary Jo White believes that the fiduciary standard rule in the works at the regulator is "enormously important." Yet she declined to specify her position on the rule or exactly when it might arrive, noting the complexity of the issue.

"The inquiry [process] doesn't end with 'Let's have a fiduciary.' There are different things that can mean," White said today at SIFMA's annual meeting here.

The rule-making has been a complex multi-year process. But as regulators work out the details, a rule could be issued as early as next year. White said the agency has adopted or proposed about 90% of nearly 100 rules mandated by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, meaning that the fiduciary standard is one of the remaining items on the SEC's bucket list.

"I think we've been firing on all cylinders," said White.

White said she was "very focused on a fiduciary standard," and indicated that there would be additional "clarity" on her position with regard to the rules' specifics in near future. She rejected recent criticism that the SEC has acted sluggishly in proposing and implementing new rules.

"Criticism comes with the territory," said White, who has been chair since April 2013. Previously, she served as a federal prosecutor and securities lawyer and, from 1993 to 2002, was a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

She cited progress made and the SEC's record number of enforcement cases last year. For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the commission filed a record 755 enforcement actions and secured $4.16 billion in penalties.
"You have to be focused on doing the right thing for investors, for our markets, what the law allows you to do," White said. "I'm very pleased with the progress we've made. It's been quite constructive, quite positive."

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