Views on improving the integrity of global capital markets
12 January 2021

The Power of Comment Letters to Influence Regulation

One of the most effective advocacy tools is to write comment letters on regulatory proposals and then leverage those letters for blogs, conversations with regulators, Hill staffers, and the media.

Comment letters can shape the public debate on proposals by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Department of Labor, and other regulatory agencies and standard-setters. Specifically, comment letters are influential in the following ways:

Impact on the stakeholder community: Other stakeholders typically read the comment file carefully. They may draw from our arguments in their own comment letters.

Impact on SEC deliberations: Our arguments can influence the deliberations of the Commission, even if it ultimately chooses a different approach from ours.

Impact on the public debate: Comment letters establish a record of our views and establish a living record.

Impact of our presence and branding: Our comment letters showcase our advocacy portfolio. They keep our name, and the quality of our work, in public view.

When the regulatory agencies reference our comment letters or repeat particular arguments attributed to us, these references have a multiplier effect, magnifying our influence in the following ways:

  • They show that the regulator takes our position seriously and considers it in its rulemaking deliberations.
  • They signal to the public the quality and intellectual rigor of our work.
  • They give us an important metric by which to measure our impact.

Measuring our impact through comments letters involves more than simply counting the final rule as a binary victory or defeat. Given the deregulatory zeal of bodies like the SEC over the past four years, we opposed a number of rulemakings on investor protection and transparency grounds. Even when our views did not prevail, it was important to articulate them. Looking ahead, it will be just as important to participate in the public debate. The incoming Biden administration is expected to review and possibly reverse a number of high-profile policies enacted during the Trump administration, especially the torrent of rules adopted in the past year.

Arguably, our voices are needed now more than ever.  For more, see “The Importance of Comment Letters to Our Advocacy Work.”


Photo credit @ Getty Images / izusek

About the Author(s)
Stephen Deane, CFA

Stephen Deane, CFA, is Senior Director, Legislative and Regulatory Outreach, at CFA Institute. He joined CFA Institute after more than nine years at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), where he was the first staff employee in the Office of the Investor Advocate. He helped build out the office and served as principal liaison to the Investor Advisory Committee. He previously worked at Institutional Shareholders Service (ISS) and in international development. He speaks fluent Russian and has a master’s degree in Russian studies from Harvard University.

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