In what likely comes as frustrating news for a lot of the wealth management industry, it is time to start worrying once again about the return of the fiduciary rule. And we are not talking about state level rules, or new interpretations of the SEC rule, we mean the old DOL rule itself. The DOL announced towards the end of 2018 that it was planning to re-release a new version of the rule in fall of 2019. However, it had been quiet until now. This week, a top industry lawyer has commented that the DOL is again working on new fiduciary regulations and may launch in tandem with the SEC, though specifics are lacking.
FINSUM: So what do we know? Firstly, we know the DOL said it would re-release the rule in the fall of this year. We also know that it seems to be actively working on crafting new fiduciary regulation. We’ll let you put two and two together.
In what is looking like a big win for broker-dealers and the entire anti-fiduciary rule countermovement, one of the big pro-Fiduciary states just had its plan resoundingly rejected. Maryland, who has made a splash in the wealth management world recently by announcing a new fiduciary rule push, just had its efforts all but obliterated by its own Senate Finance Committee. 10 out of 11 members on the committee voted against the rule (the eleventh person was excused from needing to vote), effectively ending the push for now.
FINSUM: What we are really hoping for is that the SEC is able to come up with a rule that makes states happy so that we do not end up with different rules in every part of the country, further fragmenting our financial landscape.
The press has a complicated relationship with annuities. On the one hand, some investors love them and the relative predictability they offer, while on the other, there are loads of stories of abuse. That said, they still have utility for investors, and with that in mind, here is a list of some of the best across six different categories. For immediate income, Minnesota Life has some well rated products with good payouts. Penn Mutual Life and Lincoln National Life also have strong offerings. For deferred income annuities there are some other providers to check out, including Symetra Life, CUNA Mutual, Principal Financial, and Guardian Life.
FINSUM: Guaranteed income at certain life thresholds is a valuable proposition for clients, it is the irresponsible way in which they have sometimes been sold that raises issues. This article lists some good candidates.
The fiduciary rule’s journey has been a seemingly endless saga. Opponents of the rule thought they had finally defeated it when the fifth circuit court ruled against it last year. However, its path is far from over and is showing an interesting parallel: marijuana. Fierce proponents of cannabis legalization have taken a different tact after a federal level push failed—they have gone to the state level. As most will have noticed, marijuana has been legalized in many states as part of a grassroots push for cannabis. The fiduciary rule is now playing out the same way, as new state-level rules have been popping up all over the country, threatening to bring patch work regulation.
FINSUM: One would not naturally think to compare the fiduciary rule and marijuana, but the regulatory path for both is looking quite similar. This would not be a good outcome for broker-dealers.
The fiduciary rule saga has been long and confusing. Firs the DOL Rule fell flat, then the SEC proposed its own rule, only to face harsh criticism from everyone but the brokerage industry. Now there is a new piece of news that we find encouraging: the SEC is apparently working directly with states as part of an effort to craft a new framework that will eliminate any conflicts with state-level fiduciary rules. The SEC is consulting with states like Maryland, Connecticut, Nevada, and New Jersey to make sure there aren’t grey areas or loopholes that create nightmares for advisors and their clients.
FINSUM: There are two positive developments here. On the one hand, it is great that the SEC is trying to iron out any conflicts with state-level rules, but on the other, it is even better that this consultation might actually lead to the dissolution of those state rules.
A lot of brokers have been feeling good about the SEC’s best interest rule. While that may be misguided, the perception is that the rule is significantly less stringent than the DOL rule, and thus offers a better operating paradigm. However, developments with the rule are not looking favorable to those hoping for a loose regulatory structure. In House hearings recently, four out of five witnesses called to testify on the rule said that having no new rule would be better than having the BI proposal implemented. One top compliance firm thinks the SEC is moving towards a much more strict DOL-type rule, saying “We predict that the SEC is going to re-propose [Regulation Best Interest] to make it closer to a fiduciary standard because the states have come out [with their own initiatives]”.
FINSUM: We have said for some time that we do not believe the SEC rule will be implemented in anything near its current form. That is reality is looking ever more likely.