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Friday, February 03, 2017

Fiduciary Reg-Less?

News summary by MFWire's editors

It turns out Anthony Scaramucci isn't the only Trump advisor who can spell "fiduciary", and that's not good for the controversial DoL rule.

Gary Cohn

White House National Economic Council Director
Today U.S. President Donald Trump will send the Department of Labor a memorandum, calling on the regulatory agency to delay and review the Obama administration's so-called "conflict of interest rule" with an eye towards either heavily revising or even rescinding the rule, White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn tells the Wall Street Journal. The memorandum is expected to put off the April 10 deadline for beginning implementation of the reg.

Yet it's not clear how long that delay will be. And in the meantime, the Senate committee confirmation hearing for Trump's Secretary of Labor pick, Andy Puzder, was delayed again earlier this week, leaving the regulatory agency under the temporary leadership of career DoL civil servant Edward Hugler, who has been serving as Acting Secretary of Labor since Trump took office on January 20.

Bloomberg, the Hill, Politico, and the Washington Post also reported on Trump's planned memorandum.

Scaramucci, who until this week had been slated to take a key White House job, has been one of the fiduciary regulation's most outspoken critics. Now Cohn is calling the reg "a bad rule for consumers."

"This is like putting only healthy food on the menu, because unhealthy food tastes good but you still shouldn't eat it because you might die younger," Cohn said to the WSJ.

This morning Cohn addressed the reg in a TV appearance.

"The fiduciary reg was completely misintended. They thought they were protecting investors but they were limiting choices," Cohn tells CNBC. "Don't Limit their their choices. Let them build wealth."

Meanwhile, in recent weeks executives in the asset management, broker-dealer, and 401(k) industries have largely insisted that it's too late to go back on the fiduciary reg. The fiduciary reg is widely credited as the spark that ignited pushes for new mutual fund share classes, like T shares and F3 or "clean" shares. B-Ds big and small and other financial services players have spent big bucks to adapt to the pending reg, and the consensus seems to be that the fiduciary cat is out of the bag even if the reg goes away or stalls, thanks to the increased publicity around fiduciary standards and to advisors' and investors' increasing awareness of fees.

"We will continue to implement a heightened standard of care for delivering personalized investment advice, especially for investment advice about retirement accounts," Merrill Lynch chief Andy Sieg tells the WSJ.

"We're not going back to lower standards," Craig Pfeiffer, president of the Money Management Institute (MMI) trade group, tells the paper.

"My expectation is that a lot of firms are going to continue installing a best-interest standard, regardless," Brian Graff, CEO of the American Retirement Association (ARA) group of trade groups, tells Bloomberg, referencing the "best-interest contract exemption" that is a cornerstone of the planned reg.

Trump's move against the fiduciary reg, slated for around noon today, will reportedly be alongside an executive order to revise rules under Dodd-Frank, the giant post-financial crisis law more aimed at the banking industry. 

Edited by: Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

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