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New Consumer Protections Hold Financial Advisors To Stricter Standards


Today, President Obama made two speeches that made it clear where he stands in the newly reconfigured balance of power in Washington. At one event, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, the leader of the populist wing of the Democratic Party. At the other, he excoriated the Republican Congress for flirting with a mini government shutdown that he said would jeopardize national security. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: There are items on the president's agenda that will pit him against his democratic allies in Congress - trade, for example, or the details of his request to use military force against ISIS. But when it comes to Wall Street reform, there's little daylight between the president and the base of his party. Today, he spoke to the AARP, the nation's most powerful seniors lobby. With Senator Warren in attendance, the president announced he was using his executive authority to issue new consumer protections that would hold more financial advisers to stricter standards to avoid conflicts of interest. This is particularly important now, said the president, because fewer Americans have traditional pensions, and many more are trying to save for retirement on their own.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you are working hard - if you're putting away money - if you're sacrificing that new car or that vacation so that you can build a nest egg for later, you should have the peace of mind of knowing that the advice you're getting for investing those dollars is sound.

LIASSON: Currently there's no bar to retirement advisers taking what the president calls backdoor fees from companies in exchange for pushing their investment funds. The new rule would change that, and it's part of what the president calls middle-class economics. The other part is blaming the Republican Congress for any backsliding.


OBAMA: America's poised for another good year as long as Washington doesn't screw it up - as long as we keep the progress growing with policies that help and don't hinder the middle class - no stalemates, no standoffs, no self-inflicted wounds or manufactured crises.

LIASSON: In another speech to the nation's governors earlier today, the president said we've got an example of that right now. At the end of the week, funding for the Department of Homeland Security runs out, leaving more than 100,000 essential employees showing up for work without getting paid.


OBAMA: It will have a direct impact on your economy, and it will have a direct impact on America's national security because their hard work helps to keep us safe.

LIASSON: DHS funding is hung up because Republicans want to stop the president's executive actions offering deportation relief to millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally. On this, the president's message is pretty blunt - Republicans are taking risks with national security because of a political fight over immigration. Today was the perfect example of President Obama's 2015 two-step, an affirmative, populist, middle-class agenda alternating with tough partisan attacks on the Republican Congress. Mara Liasson, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.