Service Providers Start Final Fiduciary Rule Analysis

It will be some time still before the fiduciary rule language is fully digested by retirement plan service providers, but first-impression commentary is already pouring in. 

By John Manganaro | April 06, 2016
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No doubt about it—it’s a big day in the retirement planning industry, and for financials services more broadly.

Comments are already pouring in on the freshly published final fiduciary rule, billed by the Department of Labor (DOL) as a direct extension of President Barack Obama’s wider goal of promoting stronger consumer protections across the economy, especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.  

The DOL began the process of formally publishing the rulemaking at 6 a.m. today, the culmination of the better part of a decade of work and two separate proposed versions. On first review, it appears the final version looks a lot like the second version proposed in the Spring of 2015, albeit with some important softening around the edges in response to industry criticism.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez stressed that the final version of the fiduciary rule is the result of years of collaboration and discussion between government regulators and the financial services industry, especially recordkeepers and advisory firms concerned about what the rulemaking will do to their compensation models. As one has probably come to expect in this contentious political and regulatory environment, some of the industry response was positive, some negative. Given that the rule is only a few hours old, most of the commentary was pretty cautious.  

Among the first comments to reach PLANSPONSOR was one from the Financial Services Institute, which clearly is in the skeptical camp. According to FSI President and CEO Dale Brown, “The Department of Labor’s two earlier proposals were complex and unworkable. As we have said since day one, there is no compelling evidence this rule is necessary to achieve a uniform fiduciary standard, and DOL’s own analysis fails to make the case.” He says FSI will spend the coming days “thoroughly analyzing this rule to determine if it protects Main Street investors by preserving their access to affordable, objective financial advice delivered by their chosen financial adviser.”

NEXT: Comments from across the industry