SEC Conducts Sweeping Review of Regulations

U.S. securities regulators are soliciting comments to help them as they embark on a broad review to determine whether existing regulations may be placing undue burdens on American businesses.

The announcement by the Securities and Exchange Commission comes after President Barack Obama issued an executive order on July 11 asking independent regulatory agencies, such as the SEC and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to consider whether certain rules on the books need to be streamlined, updated or even repealed.

``Because today's financial markets are dynamic and fast-moving, the regulations affecting the markets and its participants must be reviewed over time and revised as necessary so that the regulations continue to fulfill the SEC's mission,'' the agency said Tuesday.

Obama's July order seeking to help ease regulatory burdens for businesses was the second of its kind this year. In January, the president issued a similar executive order calling on government agencies to review existing regulations in light of the tough economic conditions that businesses are facing.

The first order, however, did not apply to independent regulatory agencies like the SEC.

Nevertheless, the SEC in March already started reviewing some existing rules governing private securities offerings and reporting.

The review was launched after Goldman Sachs in January decided to limit Facebook's offering to foreign investors after intense media scrutiny spooked the bank into fears it could inadvertently violate dated securities rules governing investor solicitation.

Also at issue was Goldman's attempt to legally circumvent a rule requiring companies to begin reporting financial details if they have more than 500 shareholders of record. The SEC rule counts all shareholders individually, but the method used by Goldman aggregated shareholders into one.

In subsequent hearings and letters to lawmakers after Goldman announced its decision, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro pledged to lawmakers that the agency would undertake a rigorous review to see if some rules on private securities trading need to be modernized.

It is unclear how much money could be saved as a result of Obama's more recent executive order targeting independent agencies. However, the White House estimated last month that regulatory cuts stemming from Obama's first January order could save more than $10 billion over five years.

Business groups including the Chamber of Commerce, however, have said those savings could be undercut by other costly new regulations being sought by the administration.