It is no secret, but new data is out showing just how much advisors don’t like the SEC’s new best interest rule. While there has been strong pushback about aspects of the rule, including its governance of the use of titles, there hadn’t been concrete data about how advisors felt about it. Well, now there is. A new survey from Fidelity shows that two-thirds of advisors say that the rule will either have a negative impact or won’t help. Only one third think it will have a positive impact. Interestingly, only 73% were actually aware of the SEC proposals in the first place.
FINSUM: The SEC rule is confusing and not well conceived. And when you combine with the updated DOL rule that is coming out in 2019, the new regulations could turn into a real headache.
Financial advisors appear to not give a hoot about the forthcoming SEC Best Interest rule. Fatigue from the endless on-again-off-again DOL saga seems to have taken hold of the industry. A new survey by Fidelity found that 40% of advisors says that even though they are aware of the proposals, they are currently taking no action. A further 78% of advisors say they will need help in assessing and evaluating the proposals.
FINSUM: While there is definitely some fatigue, the reality is that most advisors did a lot of preparation for the fiduciary rule, and thus they think they are in a good position for the forthcoming SEC rule.
Just when it finally felt like it was gone, the fiduciary rule appears to be back from the dead. Not only is the DOL working on a new version to be debuted in 2019, but it is reportedly enforcing the current version intensely. According to ThinkAdvisor, “attorneys with Drinker, Biddle and Reath report that both the Labor Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are leveraging enforcement initiatives at a historic level of tenacity”. Fred Reish, top industry lawyer concurred, saying “Now that the fiduciary rule has been terminated, I think the focus at DOL is more on enforcement”. In terms of how the DOL is opening up investigations, a partner at Drinker, Biddle & Reath says that “They start with ‘hello, we are the DOL, show us how you do ERISA,’ and from there take a very broad based approach”.
FINSUM: We are confused by what is going on at the DOL. Following Trump’s appointment of the new chief at the DOL there seemed to be a hands-off approach being adopted (e.g. not pushing the rule further in court). Now everything seems to have reversed. Stay tuned.
In what we think might be the worst case scenario for the industry, it is looking like the DOL and SEC are in a full scale partnership to regulate the wealth management industry. With the DOL’s announcement that it is taking another crack at the fiduciary rule, and its guidance that it would issue a new rule in September 2019 (the same month the SEC says it will debut an updated best interest rule), many insiders now expect that the DOL and SEC are working together to craft a comprehensive package of fiduciary regulations. According to Fred Reish, a top industry lawyer, “It appears that DOL and the SEC have coordinated their agendas so that the SEC's rules can be incorporated into a new exemption for prohibited transactions resulting from non-discretionary fiduciary advice”.
FINSUM: Some think this is a good sign, but more partnership between the regulators means a more diverse set of rules to adhere to. Further, there will inevitably be significant gaps between the different agency rules, leaving a lot of doubt and grey area, which causes headaches for anyone trying to play by the rules.
In what arrives as fairly shocking and quite alarming news, the DOL rule is coming back. After being effectively killed seven months ago, the DOL rule had all but disappeared. However, in an unpredictable turn of events, the DOL has announced it is working on a new version of the rule that will be debuted in 2019. The DOL released in its fall agenda that is was working on an updated rule in light of the 5th circuit court’s ruling, and that this would be debuted in Fall 2019. One prominent industry lawyer comments that “With both DOL and the SEC working on investor protection rules (and with both agencies targeting the same deadline), this hints that the two agencies may be working together to develop coordinated rules to protect American savers”.
FINSUM: A new DOL rule? Just when everyone thought we were past it! We expect this will be a toned down rule compared to the first version, however.
In what seemed an attention-grabbing and worrying story, it appears that the DOL and SEC rules are merging into some sort of hybrid, but not in the way you might think. Despite the DOL rule being effectively dead due to a court ruling, the DOL seems to be pressing ahead and is planning to modify its Conflicts of Interest rule to mirror the SEC’s new language in its BI rule. “It’s the DOL and the SEC trying to end up in the same place in terms of regulation”, says a senior policy official.
FINSUM: While this is not as worrying as if the SEC were trying to mirror the DOL, it does seem like the DOL is pressing ahead with the regulation. Perhaps we have not heard the last of the fiduciary rule?