As Donald Trump takes office, watch for action on these adviser issues

The elephant in the room is the Labor Department's fiduciary rule, but other areas include broad health care and tax reform

Jan 15, 2017 @ 12:01 am

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

As president elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office at his inauguration this week, the real estate tycoon and reality television star who has made the presidency his entry-level job in politics remains inscrutable on many issues important to advisers.

A big one is the Labor Department's fiduciary rule that would require advisers to act in the best interests of their clients in retirement accounts.

Most financial industry lobbying groups assume he'll back them on delaying and eventually replacing the rule. But Mr. Trump has not taken a public position, and some of his rhetoric makes advocates for the rule think he may be open to their arguments.

Maureen Thompson, vice president for public policy at the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc., notes that Mr. Trump has said he will work on behalf of “forgotten” Americans.

“That is something we're encouraged by and feel there is room for common ground,” Ms. Thompson said. “The rule is intended to protect those middle-income Americans.”

But Mr. Trump can place himself all over the board on policy.

“On the other hand, President-elect Trump has [promoted aggressive] deregulation and getting the government off the back of folks,” Ms. Thompson said. “We don't think [the DOL rule] falls under excessive regulation.”

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., introduced a bill Jan. 6 to delay the DOL fiduciary rule for two years, but the legislation faces a potential filibuster by Senate Democrats.

Uncertainty also surrounds other issues affecting advisers as Mr. Trump takes office.

HEALTH CARE REFORM

Congressional Republicans have made repealing the Affordable Care Act their top priority. Congress approved a budget resolution last week that sets up the framework for dismantling the law.

The taxes that finance the law, such as a 3.8% levy on investment income for people above certain thresholds, may have some staying power.

BROAD TAX REFORM

Although Democrats and Republicans clash on ending Obamacare, they may be able to work together on tax reform.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, could release initial legislation as early as February, according to Marc Gerson, a member at Miller & Chevalier.

A House blueprint calls for reducing the number of individual brackets and lowering investment taxes.

(More: Republican tax plan would reduce brackets, slash investment taxes)

Democrats will differ on individual provisions but support broad reform, according to Congressman Richard Neal, D-Mass., ranking member of the House Ways & Means Committee.

REGULATORY REFORM

During the first couple weeks of the new Congress, the Republican majority in the House has put broad regulatory reform at the top of its agenda.

The House approved last week along party lines a bill written by Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., that would increase cost-benefit analysis requirements for SEC regulations before they are promulgated.

(Related read: Senate Democrats control fate of DOL fiduciary rule)

Later in the year, the House is expected to take up a bill written by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, that would overhaul the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

NEW FACES IN POWER

A new Securities and Exchange Commission chairman has been nominated by Mr. Trump — securities lawyer Jay Clayton — as well as a new DOL secretary — fast-food company executive Andrew Puzder.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, takes over the Senate Banking Committee, while Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., is the new chairman of the capital markets subcommittee of the House Financial Services committee.

The four men share one thing in common: They have virtually no paper trail on fiduciary duty and oversight of advisers.

(More: Members of Donald Trump's DOL landing team oppose fiduciary rule)

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