Financial industry groups wasted no time telling Alexander Acosta what his first priority should be upon winning confirmation from the Senate as secretary of Labor Thursday night: Extend the delay of the DOL fiduciary rule.
Mr. Acosta takes the helm of the agency as it reviews the regulation under a directive from President Donald J. Trump, who told the DOL to rework its cost-benefit assessment of the regulation and modify or repeal the measure if it denies retirement savers access to advice or increases litigation risk for financial firms. The DOL delayed implementation of the measure from April 10 to June 9, but the industry wants a longer time out.
"We strongly urge Secretary Acosta to take immediate action to further delay implementation of the fiduciary duty rule a minimum of 180 days beyond the current June 9, 2017, applicability date," Kenneth E. Bentsen Jr., president and CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, said in a statement. "As required by President Trump's [memo], the DOL needs to prepare an updated economic and legal analysis concerning the likely impact of the fiduciary duty rule. This review will take time, and Secretary Acosta should immediately delay the June 9 implementation date while the required review is ongoing.
The Financial Services Roundtable called for a 180-day delay in a statement following the confirmation vote.
The Financial Services Institute, which represents independent broker-dealers and financial advisers, urged Mr. Acosta to make "the fiduciary issue a top priority."
Two provisions of the rule — an expansion of the definition of who is a fiduciary to retirement plans and impartial conduct standards — will become applicable on June 9. The DOL has said it will complete the review of the rule between then and Jan. 1, the implementation deadline for the full measure.
Financial industry opponents are upset about that timeline, asserting that the whole rule should be delayed during the review.
Supporters of the regulation — which would require financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients in retirement accounts — say that several court victories for the rule in lawsuits filed by industry opponents demonstrate its integrity. They question the motivation behind Mr. Trump's directive, which echoes industry arguments against the measure.
The Consumer Federation of America said that the review is politically motivated and signaled it might challenge the Trump administration in court.
"[A]lthough we still hope to be proven wrong, the weight of the evidence leads us to conclude that the department has already predetermined the outcome of this reconsideration and expects to revise or replace the rule, regardless of what the reconsideration indicates about the effectiveness and workability of the rule," Barbara Roper, CFA director of investor protection, and Micah Hauptman, CFA financial services counsel, wrote in an April 17 comment letter. "If true, that would be a gross abuse of process and would subject the department to claims that it acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner."