The new fiduciary standard is set to begin on June 9. Are you ready?

On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, the Department of Labor finalized a delay to the applicability date of the Fiduciary Rule until June 9, 2017

Introduction

Following President Trump’s February 3, 2017 memorandum (the “Presidential Memorandum”)1 directing the Department of Labor (DOL) to prepare an “updated economic and legal analysis concerning the likely impact” of its “Conflict of Interest Rule” on fiduciary investment advice (the “Rule”) and related prohibited transaction exemptions (PTEs), the DOL finalized a delay to the initial applicability date of the Rule until June 9, 2017.2

The DOL also delayed the initial applicability date of the Best Interest Contract (BIC) Exemption, the Class Exemption for Principal Transactions, and amendments to other previously granted exemptions until June 9, 2017.  The applicability date of the Impartial Conduct Standards in these exemptions is extended until June 9, 2017, while compliance with other conditions for transactions covered by these exemptions (e.g., specific disclosures and representations of fiduciary compliance in written communications with investors) is not required until January 1, 2018.3

In addition, the DOL delayed the initial applicability of amendments to PTE 84-24 for certain insurance companies and agents until January 1, 2018 (other than the Impartial Conduct Standards, which will be applicable on June 9, 2017).

The DOL argued that these extensions are necessary to enable it to examine whether the Rule may adversely affect the ability of Americans to gain access to retirement information and financial advice, and to prepare the updated economic and legal analysis pursuant to the Presidential Memorandum.  The extensions will also allow the DOL to “consider possible changes with respect to the Rule and PTEs based on new evidence or analysis developed pursuant to the examination.”4

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Department of Labor issues proposal to delay Fiduciary Rule

On Thursday, March 2, 2017, the Department of Labor published a proposal that would delay the Fiduciary Rule by 60 days; comments will be accepted until March 17, 2017

Introduction

On February 3, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued a memorandum (the “Presidential Memorandum”) directing the Department of Labor (DOL) to examine its “Conflict of Interest Rule” on fiduciary investment advice (the “Rule”) and related prohibited transaction exemptions (PTEs) to “determine whether it may adversely affect the ability of Americans to gain access to retirement information and financial advice.”1 The Presidential Memorandum also raised concerns that the Rule “may not be consistent with the policies of [the] Administration.”

The Presidential Memorandum did not directly delay or order a delay in the Rule’s initial April 10, 2017 applicability date, but directed the DOL to prepare an “updated economic and legal analysis concerning the likely impact” of the Rule.

If the DOL makes an affirmative determination pursuant to these considerations or if it concludes for any other reason that the Rule is inconsistent with the priorities outlined in the Presidential Memorandum, it is directed to publish a proposed rule to rescind or revise the Rule, as appropriate and consistent with law.

On March 2, 2017, the DOL published in the Federal Register a proposed rule that would extend the applicability date of the Rule and PTEs for 60 days (i.e., until June 9, 2017) to allow the DOL to “address questions of law and policy.”2

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White House directs Department of Labor to review Fiduciary Rule

On Friday, February 3, 2017, the White House issued a memorandum to the Secretary of the Department of Labor ordering an updated economic and legal analysis.

Since the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) “Conflict of Interest Rule” (the “Rule”) and related prohibited transaction exemptions were finalized in April 2016, many impacted organizations have expressed reservations about the timeline and the volume of complex work required in order to be compliant by April 10, 2017.

Due to concerns that the Rule “may significantly alter the manner in which Americans can receive financial advice, and may not be consistent with the policies of [the] Administration,”1 President Donald J. Trump issued a memorandum (the “Presidential Memorandum”) directing the DOL to examine the Rule to “determine whether it may adversely affect the ability of Americans to gain access to retirement information and financial advice.”

The memorandum does not directly delay or order a delay to the Rule’s applicability date, but it directs the DOL to prepare an “updated economic and legal analysis concerning the likely impact” of the Rule, which shall consider, among other things:

  • Whether the anticipated applicability of the Rule “has harmed or is likely to harm investors due to a reduction of Americans’ access to certain retirement savings offerings, retirement product structures, retirement savings information, or related financial advice,”
  • Whether the anticipated applicability of the Rule “has resulted in dislocations or disruptions” within the retirement services industry that may adversely affect investors or retirees, and
  • Whether the Rule is “likely to cause an increase in litigation, and an increase in the prices that investors and retirees must pay to gain access to retirement services.”

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