Legislative Report…Daniel Nnorth and Claudia Schott

Let’s talk about the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Fiduciary Rule delay. Apparently, then-President Obama asked that the DOL set up a rule that made retirement advisors put the needs of their clients first, before any financial gain to themselves. (Huh, go figure.) This rule was written, approved and signed by April of 2016. It was supposed to go into effect this month. However, during the first session of congress this year, Representative Joe Wilson (R, S.C.) introduced a bill that would delay the Fiduciary Rule by two years.

This was probably due to more protests from the financial industry groups. They had already protested vehemently back in 2010, stating regulatory costs, liability costs and client concerns were going to be a problem. Especially since the Fiduciary Rule set a much higher standard than the suitability standard from 1974. (This was way overdue to be overhauled, folks.)

Many industry groups have already jumped onboard with the new plan, including the CFP Board, the Financial Planning Association (FPA), and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). Supporters applauded the new rule, saying it should increase and streamline transparency for investors, make conversations easier for advisors entertaining changes, and most of all, prevent abuses on the part of financial advisors, such as excessive commissions and investment churning for reasons of compensation. A 2015 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers found that biased advice drained $17 billion a year from retirement accounts.

However, the legislation has met with staunch opposition from other professionals, including brokers and planners. Financial advisors would rather be held to a “suitability” standard than a “fiduciary” standard because the latter will cost them money – in lost commissions and the added expense of compliance. The stricter fiduciary standards could cost the financial services industry an estimated $2.4 billion per year by eliminating conflicts of interest like front-end load commissions and mutual fund 12b-1 fees paid to wealth management and advisory firms.

Now this delay is costing us money and we need to do something about it, since the main impact is on retirement accounts and IRA’s. Three lawsuits have been filed against the Fiduciary Rule and it can be stopped. Not something we want. I believe we need to talk to our representatives and Senators and get the ball rolling again to keep the new standard from falling through the cracks.