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Friday, January 23, 2015

The White House Takes Up a Fight Over IRAs

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

Advisors working with IRAs may soon face new restrictions, as expected, and it looks like the White House is throwing its weight behind the changes.

You may have heard your 401(k)-focused colleagues babbling on and off for years about the Department of Labor's (DoL's) plans to redefine fiduciary status. Now that proposed redefinition is almost here, and President Barack Obama's top staffers are preparing talking points on the subject. IRA industry, beware.

Last week the chairman and a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisors circulated a memo about the DoL's soon-to-be re-proposed regulation. The bulk of the memo is devoted to briefing staffers on relevant academic research and to an overview of related regulations overseas.

Much of that research focuses not on 401(k)s but on IRAs, and 401(k) rollovers to IRAs. The memo's authors see billions of dollars in excessive fees and underperformance thanks to advice from what they describe as "conflicted" financial advisors, often times related to rollovers.

The five-page memo devotes only a single paragraph to a brief, non-detailed hint as to what the DoL's regulation will actually include. That paragraph includes an assurance that the DoL's plan "allows businesses to continue using existing, conflicted business models," but with extra "consumer protections" thrown in. 

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