The SEC rule has received a lot of attention. Those in the industry have been moderately positive on the rule because of its degree of leniency, but no one really thinks it is a good rule, especially not investor protection advocates. Today we ready an opinion of the rule by an industry laywer, and it was so compelling, we had to share it in its entirety. The below is from Steven Lofchie of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP: “Now, in many respects, we have ended up with the worst of all possible situations: (i) the Reg. BI adopting release fails to make any strong intellectual argument for why it is not reasonable to expect that broker-dealers can be fiduciaries to their clients; (ii) Reg. BI fails to make any distinction between sophisticated and unsophisticated natural person clients (treating Warren Buffett no different from a high school dropout); (iii) Reg. BI imposes significant new obligations on broker-dealers that very well may reduce the willingness of broker-dealers to provide "full-service" brokerage to retail investors and instead result in retail investors seeking any level of advice to potentially pay a much higher charge to an investment adviser; (iv) Reg. BI fails to satisfy any of the critics who wanted a fiduciary obligation imposed on broker-dealers; and (v) states are adopting their own "suitability" rules - urged on by Commissioner Jackson - thereby moving U.S. securities regulation away from a unitary system of regulation to a fractured Brexit system.”.
FINSUM: We have never read any commentary that does justice to the new rule better than Mr. Lofchie’s. It hits the nail on the head on why it is a failure from all sides.
Annuities are an important part of both advisors’ businesses and their clients’ portfolios. However, the options in the market can be overwhelming, especially if you are an advisor new to the asset class. The annuities business has cleaned up its act in the last few years and is finally getting some respect because of its ability to alleviate retirees’ worst fears—running out of money in retirement. Well, Barron’s has put out a list of the top 100 annuities in the market, including how to pick them. The list is quite extensive, so here is a link. The choices are broken down into numerous categories and include offerings from Lincoln National Life, Transamerica, Prudential, CUNA Mutual Group, and beyond.
FINSUM: Not only do annuities help alleviate the fear of running out of money for retirees, but they are also popular with Millennials, who are financially conservative and have a similar concern about future income.
Astute observers will have noticed that President Trump last week nominated Eugene Scalia to head the DOL following Acosta’s resignation. Even sharper readers will know that likely means the DOL’s newest version of the Fiduciary Rule is likely dead. Scalia was instrumental in the first version of the rule’s defeat last year. He was the lead counsel for SIFMA and the body of trade groups that defeated the rule. With him becoming head of the DOL, it seems highly unlikely the Labor Department would advance the newest version of the regulation.
FINSUM: We think Eugene Scalia is the DOL head that most of the industry has been waiting for. He has a reputation as a fierce anti-regulation warrior, so is hard to imagine him advancing the newest version of the Fiduciary Rule to any degree.
The wealth management industry has been holding its collective breath for the last week or so. Ever since DOL chief Acosta resigned, it became very unclear what sort of Fiduciary Rule might be released later this year. Would it be a more onerous version, or a more lenient one? Well, the answer seems very likely to be a lighter-touch version of the rule. That is because Trump has just announced his nomination to the position—Eugene Scalia, son of the former Supreme Court Justice. Scalia has a long and quite conservative track record, and is seen as likely to deregulate more quickly than Acosta.
FINSUM: Scalia seems like an ideal choice for those hoping the DOL’s new Fiduciary Rule is significantly lighter than the 2017 version. Perhaps he even scraps it altogether?
Advisors look out, the potentially easy Fiduciary Rule you have been counting on is now seriously in doubt. For several months the consensus view was that the DOL would create a companion rule to the SEC’s Best Interest rule, but in a significantly less onerous way than the original Fiduciary Rule. That assumption now looks misguided because DOL chief Acosta has resigned, meaning there will be a major leadership change and a likely revisiting of strategic priorities.
FINSUM: Acosta has been pretty industry friendly, so this review is nerve-racking as there seems to be an equal likelihood of a either a tougher new chief, or a similar/relaxed one.
Have you been concerned about the newest iteration of the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule, which is due out by the end of this year? You should have been. While investors have been anxious about it, the generally more industry-friendly DOL under Trump has alleviated some anxieties. However, some thing very big just happened—DOL chief Acosta has resigned (amidst the Jeffrey Epstein scandal). That means there is likely to be a significant review and change of priorities as new leadership comes in. That leaves the fate and direction of the DOL very uncertain.
FINSUM: This is not necessarily good news. One could get giddy and think the Fiduciary Rule might no longer be a priority, but there is an equal chance the next head of the department may come in and say “this isn’t tough enough”.