Trump victory puts DOL fiduciary rule in limbo

Regulation to raise investment advice standards for retirement accounts could be targeted by the new administration and the Republican-controlled Congress

Nov 9, 2016 @ 9:08 am

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Donald Trump
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Donald Trump

Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election Tuesday threatens the Labor Department regulation to raise investment advice standards for retirement accounts.

As Washington wakes up to the stunning election outcome, with Mr. Trump set to succeed President Barack Obama, uncertainty about the rule — and just about everything else — settled over the capital.

Dan Barry, founder of Atlantic Policy Solutions, said the Trump win “puts DOL fiduciary in play.”

In a statement early Wednesday morning, the Financial Services Institute seemed to hint that it hopes that is the case.

“We stand ready to work with [Mr. Trump's] administration in ensuring Main Street Americans have access to objective and affordable financial advice as they save for a dignified retirement, pay for their children's education and help care for aging parents,” FSI president and chief executive Dale Brown said in a statement.

The DOL rule, which requires financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients in 401(k), individual retirement accounts and other qualified accounts, is designed to curb conflicted advice that erodes retirement savings.

Several lawsuits have been filed against the rule by the financial industry, which says it would significantly increase liability risk and regulatory costs for advisers and make investment advice more expensive to give and receive.

Prior to the election, one of Mr. Trump's advisers, Anthony Scaramucci, managing partner of SkyBridge Capital, said that a Trump administration “is going to repeal it.”

Republicans not only captured the White House with Mr. Trump's triumph over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the party also held its majority in the Senate and maintained control of the House.

That political lineup in 2017 gives renewed hope to legislative action to kill the DOL rule. Previous attempts were vetoed by Mr. Obama.

The GOP leadership on Capitol Hill also could give new momentum to a bill to overhaul the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which includes a provision to halt the DOL rule. Democrats will have enough members in the Senate to maintain a filibuster.

Republicans "have made it clear that rolling back those protections will be on the agenda of a Republican administration," said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America. “Congress could and presumably will pass legislation to repeal the rule, and President Trump could sign it.”

But Skip Schweiss, managing director for advisor advocacy at TD Ameritrade Institutional, is more sanguine about the prospects for the DOL measure being scrapped.

“I think it's possible; it's not probable,” Mr. Schweiss said. “The rule is final. I think the odds of [it] surviving are pretty good.”

Joseph Peiffer, a board member of the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association, agreed that the unpredictability Mr. Trump demonstrated on the campaign trail is likely to continue now that he is president-elect.

“If he wins, no one knows what the hell is going to happen,” Mr. Peiffer said.

Early Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump tried to reassure the country that he would work to heal divisions brought out by the close, often pugilistic election.

“It is time for us to come together as a united people,” Mr. Trump said. “I will be a president for all Americans.

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