Displaying items by tag: SEC
Fixed index annuities had a really rough time in the year or so leading up to the debut of the first Fiduciary Rule. The DOL’s changes all but made the product extinct. However, since the rule was struck down, fixed index annuities have made a resurgence, posting their biggest ever quarter for sales with $20 bn in Q2 this year. The good news for brokers is that changes in the government’s regulatory approach means that fixed index annuities will now be treated like an equity product, which means they will be under the SEC’s purview. Additionally, a new kind of FIA has been developed—fee-based—which means brokers and advisors have a choice between a fee-based product or a commission-based one.
FINSUM: The big question for FIAs is how to do a best interest comparison between the fee-based and commission-based versions, as the cost changes depending on time and other factors.
The SEC’s new Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) is causing a lot of headaches and anxiety for brokers. Particularly, brokers are worried that the new rules governing rollovers are going to end up being a trap. Reg BI does address rollovers, even laying out some (but not all) of the factors that one should be considering when recommending them. But brokers feel the rules are too vague, which could lead to big trouble. In particular, there are fears that of all the factors, cost will have by far the most weight, which could lead to heavy penalties when recommendations are viewed in hindsight.
FINSUM: In addition to the Reg BI anxiety about rollovers, there is also growing tension because everyone is expecting the new DOL Fiduciary Rule to try to grab some power in the rollover area, which means there will be new complications to deal with.
It had seemed somewhat of a formality to this point, but it is now official: Eugene Scalia has been confirmed by the Senate as the head of the Department of Labor. Scalia has long been a legal crusader against both financial regulations and worker’s rights, and will now take the helm of what is likely to be a very different Department of Justice. This has made opponents of the the fiduciary rule 2.0 cheer. However, Scalia announced recently he may have to recuse himself from being involved in that regulation given government ethics guidelines. Still, many argue that his influence will mean the DOL moves in a much more conservative direction on all fronts.
FINSUM: The fiduciary rule seems like the biggest thing the DOL has going at the moment (at least it seems that way if you are in wealth management). This seems to be backed up by how much political attention it is getting. It is hard to see him not being involved, or at least heavily influencing the approach, even if he is not directly taking part.
For the last couple of months it has been pretty easy to assume that the new version of the DOL’s fiduciary rule would not have nearly as heavy a hand as the first iteration. Most have thought it would likely sing to the same tune as the SEC’s best interest rule. One of the integral reasons for this view is that the DOL is now under the leadership of Eugene Scalia, son of Antonin Scalia, the former of which is one of the top securities lawyers in the country and long a fierce critic of the fiduciary rule. However, a major new development this week—Scalia says he may have to recuse himself from the whole fiduciary rule process because of federal ethics rules. Scalia was part of the lawsuit that defeated the rule last year, which is the reason for the recusal.
FINSUM: It now seems very likely that Scalia won’t be leading this process, which means it is commensurately more likely the DOL rule 2.0 could be much tougher than expected.
It feels like a complete repeat of the DOL’s fiduciary rule. With less than a year to go until implementation (June 2020), the SEC’s new Regulation Best Interest has just entered legal limbo. Perhaps even more worrying than the recent lawsuit from seven states is the fact that leading industry figure Michael Kitces’ firm, XY Planning Network, has just sued the SEC in New York to help block the rule. Kitces is trying to build on the FPA’s legacy of defeating regulators, such as it did in 2005 with the “Merrill Lynch rule”. It is highly unclear what the ultimate outcome of these suits might be, which means brokerages are having trouble committing resources to comply with them.
FINSUM: The chances that this rule gets implemented in its current form seem small, which means it that it is unwise to invest too much into compliance at this point. Everyone still has a bad taste from the money spent complying with the defunct DOL fiduciary rule.