Don't look now but the recently extended DoL rule just got more complicated, thanks to fake critics.
The Department of Labor has received more than 3,100 comments about its COIR (conflict of interest rule, more commonly known as the "DoL rule" or the "fiduciary reg") and "a significant number" of the comments attacking the rule are fake, the Wall Street Journal reports
. Mercury Analytics, on behalf of the WSJ
, surveyed DoL rule commenters and found that 40 percent of respondents "said they didn't post the comment listed under their name, address, phone number and email."
specifically zeroed in on individual commenters, not on those speaking on behalf of companies or trade groups, and the paper offers no clues or guesses as to who would be submitting fake comments. Yet doing so could come at a hefty cost if the submitter is caught; the paper points out that "submitting fraudulent statements or representations to the federal government is a felony."
The DoL and the fiduciary reg are not the only targets of fake commenters. The WSJ's
piece on the DoL reg comments is a follow up to a longer article
from earlier this month, in which the paper revealed finding more than 7,800 people who told the WSJ
the comments attributed to them were fake. The comments came from different sides of a variety of issues being addressed by other regulatory agencies like the FCC, CFPB, and the SEC. Other comments were attributed to fake or deceased people, including a made-up WSJ
"Generating tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of fake posts on public comment websites for the purpose of swaying public opinion and impacting the opinions of political decision makers is wide-scale," Ron Howard
, CEO of Mercury Analytics, tells the WSJ
, "not limited to a party, not limited to an issue, and not limited to a social ideology."
, a data analytics firm, found that the FCC received 7.75 million comments from FakeMailGenerator.com
, the WSJ
reports. The paper pointed to IssueHound
as the source of more than 4,000 fake comments to the CFPB.
Yet submitting fake comments, at first glance, might not seem like it's worth the felony risk. Federal agencies have to review comments, but they don't have to be swayed by them. Yet the WSJ
wonders if the fake comments could be about the next stage of a regulatory fight around the DoL rule or other federal regs. Comments can be pointed to as evidence when fighting in court or in Congress, or when working with a regulator to make a change ... like when the SEC and the DoL work on the fiduciary reg and the uniform fiduciary standard next year thanks to the partial fiduciary reg delay to July 2019.
Neil Anderson, Managing Editor
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