Obama-era rule on financial advisers to go forward, for now

Posted May 24, 2017

"This administration presumes that Americans can be trusted to decide for themselves what is best for them".

Opponents also say the Labor Department overstepped its legal authority and overruled a peer agency.

As reported, the rule was due to take effect on 9 April, but was delayed in March, a month after the still-new-to-office us president, Donald Trump, called on the Department of Labor to study the rule, to assess whether its implementation would limit investors' access to investment products or advice, cause disruptions in the industry, and/or increase litigation against companies providing such advice and products.

In an essay for the Wall Street Journal that was published Monday night, Acosta said the department "found no principled legal basis" for delaying the rule any further.

The American Council of Life Insurers, whose member companies sell annuities for retirement income, said it was disappointed by the Labor Department's decision.

Retirement saving has become a major hurdle for many Americans. The initial phase of the rule's implementation will begin June 9. "The RFI will specifically ask for public comment on whether it is likely to take more time to implement these new approaches than what the Department envisioned when it set January 1, 2018, as the applicability date for full compliance with all of the exemptions' conditions, and, if so, whether an additional delay in the January 1, 2018 applicability date would reduce burdens on financial services providers and benefit retirement investors by allowing for a smoother implementation of those market changes".

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Earlier this year, the Department issued a field assistance bulletin that described the Department's temporary enforcement policy related to the fiduciary rule, whereby the Department will not pursue claims against fiduciaries who are working diligently and in good faith to comply with the fiduciary duty rule and exemptions, or treat those fiduciaries as being in violation of the fiduciary duty rule and exemptions.

Asset managers have also debuted T shares, which charge the same commission - often 2.5% upfront - for all asset classes, as a response to the fiduciary rule.

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, DoL Secretary Alexander Acosta said the Department made a decision to move forward with the partial rule after it "carefully considered the record in this case" and determined there was no legal basis for further postponement.

Bentsen said he hoped that the review will conclude that "dramatic and fundamental changes" to the rule are needed.

Business groups and financial firms detest the rule and challenged it in court soon after it was promulgated. The Chamber, SIFMA and other industry groups sued previous year to stop the rule, but a Texas judge dismissed the suit.

(More: Will the fiduciary rule shrink the ever-expanding world of share classes?)"I think it is kind of an endorsement, if I read between the lines", Charles Field, co-chair of the financial services practice at Sanford Heisler Kimpel, said of the DOL's discussion on clean shares. The Labor Department stepped in after progressive activists and politicians rallied around the rule they say helps protect consumers from dishonest financial advisers.