The House Financial Services Committee plans to mark up on Wednesday Rep. Ann Wagner’s bill designed to stop the Department of Labor from making a new fiduciary rule under ERISA, despite predictions that DOL is poised to issue a final rulemaking by year-end.
Wagner’s bill, H.R. 1090, the Retail Investor Protection Act, “begins to correct” DOL’s proposed fiduciary rule that “will raise costs, restrict choice and reduce access to investment advice for lower- and middle-income families seeking financial independence,” the Committee said in a statement on its website announcing the planned markup.
The comment period on the DOL fiduciary rule officially closed Thursday after DOL took comments on the transcript of four days of hearings on the redraft that occurred in mid-August.
House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said at a Sept. 10 hearing to discuss Wagner’s bill that he would advance her Retail Investor Protection Act as it “will stop” the DOL’s “misguided” fiduciary rule and require the DOL to defer to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s “expertise” on fiduciary-related issues.
But SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White reportedly said recently that a fiduciary rule by the agency isn’t coming anytime soon.
Wagner said on a Sept. 9 call with reporters that her bill is “good legislation that prevents an overzealous administration from taking away sound advice from low- and middle-income savers.”
Wagner said on the call that while her bill could go straight to the full committee for a vote, the plan is to mark up her bill by “the end of the month.”
She noted that she’d like her bill to move “as stand-alone legislation” and not attached to a year-end spending bill. If the bill doesn’t move forward in the Senate or President Barack Obama vetoes it, she added, “we’ll take that hurdle when it comes; I do believe there are ways, through the appropriations process, that this could be ultimately dealt with if necessary.”
Ninety-six House democrats urged Labor Secretary Thomas Perez in a Sept. 25 letter to not only improve the controversial best interest contract exemption, known as BIC, but to continue to engage with lawmakers and stakeholders on needed revisions to the rule. The lawmakers also urged DOL to convene a “small working group of industry professionals and consumer advocates to aid with finalization of the rule.”
Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America, told DOL in her comment letter on the hearing transcripts that “while adjustments can and doubtless will be made to clarify and streamline certain of the rule’s operational requirements, the rule’s overall framework is sound.”
She argued that “none of the alternatives suggested by industry come close to matching its comprehensive protections, and nothing that industry has submitted during the comment process should deflect the Department from its goal of moving forward quickly to finalize this rule with its core provisions intact.”