The Department of Labor plans to repropose its controversial rule to amend the definition of fiduciary under ERISA “in several months,” Phyllis Borzi, assistant secretary for the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, told AdvisorOne on Friday.
Speaking briefly with AdvisorOne before she spoke at the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement’s annual women’s retirement symposium in Washington, Borzi said to expect a reproposal of the fiduciary rule early next year.
“We’re not finished” with the rule, Borzi told WISER attendees. “When people see the reproposal, reasonable people with open minds will say [DOL] listened, that [DOL] addressed the legitimate issues that were raised in the long comment process.” Added Borzi: “The reproposal will be better, clearer, more targeted and more reasonably balanced.”
However, advisors are still concerned about what the reproposal will look like, as a recent poll by the Financial Services Institute found. The FSI poll found that advisors are becoming “increasingly opposed” to the DOL reproposing its rule – 91% opposed in the Nov. 28 poll, which is up from 89% in August and 72% in February.
But Borzi spoke with conviction to the conference attendees when addressing the need for a fiduciary rule. “We are facing a crisis of confidence and people need help,” she said. Those that “need help and want help need to understand that the people who hold themselves out as experts are accountable to them, and in fact, exercise the standard of care that consumers think they are getting and deserve to get.”
The advice “has to be unbiased advice,” Borzi said, and it “has to be directed to you and your best interest.”
Citing the retirement savings forums that she and her former right hand man, Michael Davis, conducted around the country, Borzi said the overwhelming message they heard from forum attendees “is their financial insecurity.” Davis left his post in mid-November as deputy assistant secretary of EBSA to serve as head of Prudential Retirement’s stable value business.
Borzi also gave attendees a snapshot on the results of DOL’s enforcement actions in fiscal year 2012, which she said will be released soon. With 460 investigators in the DOL’s field offices spread throughout the country, Borzi said that there were 3,600 civil investigations last year, with 72% of those cases being closed with “a result,” meaning recovery was made. She added that 218 of those cases were referred to litigation.
On the criminal side, Borzi said that the DOL brought 318 cases with 117 indictments. As to benefit disputes, she noted that 240,000 inquiries were made last year. Between the benefit advisors in the field working for DOL and the investigators, Borzi said they recovered a combined $1.27 billion in civil and criminal monetary results in 2012.