Wealth Management


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.

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