Eris Group looks at recent wins, future of IPA's advocacy efforts

Eris Group founder Doyle Bartlett
Eris Group founder Doyle Bartlett

The Investment Program Association is continuing its advocacy work on Capitol Hill with its Fly-in this year as it evaluates regulatory changes such as the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule. The IPA also plans to continue building relationships as changes loom for the executive branch, Congress and regulatory agencies.

The Eris Group serves as the IPA’s voice in Washington, D.C. Eris Group founder Doyle Bartlett and partner Christopher S. McCannell discuss the IPA’s advocacy victories and plans for the future.

Why do IPA members go to the Hill, and what is the strategy?

McCannell: IPA members go to Capitol Hill to advocate for the over $120 billion non-traded REIT, non-traded BDC and private placement industry. Going to the Hill as grassroots advocates for Direct Investments helps educate members of Congress and staff on the important issues this industry faces and its work to help Americans reach their investment goals.

Bartlett: We dedicate a significant amount of time and resources to developing relationships with regulators and coalition partners. Our goal is to educate our regulators and our coalition partners about our industry and introduce them to our industry leaders so we become a trusted source for information about our industry and a reliable partner in addressing the challenges we face. We believe in fully engaging with regulators and policymakers to work together to address their concerns. We work with our coalition partners to broaden our reach and amplify our message to those regulators and policymakers that impact our industry.

What is IPA’s take on the outcome of the Labor Department fiduciary rule in light of its advocacy over the past four years? What have been the victories during that time?

McCannell: Like most industries and trade associations, the IPA is still reacting to the overall rule. While the final rule reflects a lot of the changes advocated by the IPA in comment letters and testimony at the DOL, including the deletion of a list of allowable assets under the best-interest contract exemption, it is still unclear as to how it will impact all of our members and if the rule will be workable for every client.

One major victory over the duration of advocacy for the rule was in the final release by President Obama announcing the rule where the White House highlighted the ability to sell non-traded REITs as a reason for eliminating the asset class list. At the beginning of the debate, non-traded REITs weren’t understood and were specifically left out. To go from that to eliminating the asset list — to being mentioned as a reason for the change in the president’s announcement — truly shows that IPA punches above its weight.

How has IPA sought to build coalitions as well as relationships with regulators? How has it advanced its status as a credible source based on those relationships?

McCannell: IPA has strong and consistent engagement with its regulators at the federal level – the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission — as well as the state-based securities regulators. We do that through advocacy, education and engagement and explaining to them our products and the need for them with transparency and clarity. IPA’s expertise is seen as a credible and important source to these regulators and helps to emphasize our role as a trusted voice.

What is next in terms of legislative advocacy?

Bartlett: Every election year brings changes, and this one is shaping up to bring more changes than most. We will focus our efforts on establishing relationships with all the new players in the administration and on the Hill as well as in the states and the other regulators. From an issue standpoint, we will be actively involved with the implementation of the Labor Department fiduciary rule, the SEC’s own rule on definition of fiduciary, the SEC’s review of accredited investors, possible congressional action on tax reform, and further congressional action on modernizing business development companies and enhanced access to capital for small companies.

McCannell: Advocacy can never stop, and in an election year it is more important than ever. No matter what happens in November, we will have new members of the House and Senate and a whole new administration. It is important that we continue our engagement to educate key policymakers on our industry and to prevent any unintended consequences.