The Department of Labour unveiled a “streamlined” version of its long-awaited new rule requiring advisors to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own when it comes to overseeing retirement accounts.
The DOL regulation attempts to “level the playing field” for everyday investors who hold some $12 trillion in IRA and 401(k) plans when it comes to their dealings with financial advisors.
This is the first major update to the regulations of retirement advice since 1975 when the Employee Retirement Income Security Act was enacted to protect investors in private pension plans. About $14 trillion in retirement savings could be affected by the rule, according to estimates from the WSJ.
A large number of financial industry companies, including Wall Street banks with brokerages, mutual fund companies, and thousands of independent brokers and financial planners, spent over five years fighting this rule.
And, ultimately, the DOL made some concessions from an earlier proposal in favour of the industry.
According to Wealthmanagement.com’s Diana Britton and David Armstrong, the DOL “tweaked the final version to ‘minimise’ the compliance burden on firms and throw open the window to allow for a broader range of investments, including non-traded REITs and variable annuities, as long as advisors guarantee they are putting their client’s interests ahead of their own.”
Some folks immediately noted that the new rule didn’t do as much as it could have:
LPL Financial and some other firms that manage money for individuals jumped after the rule was unveiled. LPL was up by as much as 9.9% after the announcement crossed, but is currently up 7.36%.
Still, the Obama administration argues that the new fiduciary rule will save middle-class families billions of dollars every year.
The administration previously estimated that retirement advice from conflicted financial advisors costs American middle class families about $17 billion per year, and decreases annual returns on retirement savings by one percentage point. Those in the financial industry have disputed these figures.
Notably, there have been some key political opponents to the fiduciary rule. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan slammed the rule in his official blog back in March, arguing that the rule will disproportionately hurt low-income people.
The rule “creates more paperwork and costly record-keeping requirements for financial planners, restricting access to quality investment advice for upwards of 7 million Americans with IRAs,” he wrote in the post. And it “results in higher costs for people seeking financial advice, disproportionately hurting families with smaller bank accounts.”
In any case, the implementation of the rule will be phased in over time. The full requirements will go into effect January 1, 2018.
“With the finalization of this rule, we are putting in place a fundamental protection into the American retirement landscape,” Labour Secretary Thomas Perez told reporters on Tuesday afternoon, according to ThinkAdvisor’s Melanie Waddell. “A consumer’s best interest must now come before an advisor’s financial interest. This is a huge win for the middle class.”
“Today’s rule ensures that putting clients first is no longer a marketing slogan. It’s the law,” he added.