Labor Secretary Tom Perez, left, with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. (Photo: AP)

The Department of Labor continues to “reach out to stakeholders” regarding the redraft of its rule to amend the definition of fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act so that DOL can “understand with granularity” what the “nature of the problem is and what the nature of various stakeholders’ concerns are” regarding the rulemaking, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez told reporters after his speech at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday.

When asked if DOL still plans to release in January the redraft of its controversial rule to amend the definition of fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, Perez declined to answer specifically, referring only to the January redraft release date as cited in DOL’s regulatory agenda.

DOL had announced in late May that it would further delay release of the fiduciary redraft from August to January.  

The redraft, Perez said, is “on our regulatory agenda and we continue to reach out and listen to various stakeholders…and we continue to learn a lot from them,” Perez told reporters Monday.

At the press club to deliver a speech, “An Economy That Works for Everyone: The Labor Secretary’s Perspective,” Perez dodged addressing the public assertions that he was among the candidates to replace Attorney General Eric Holder, who resigned in late September.

Perez told reporters after his speech that his “focus continues to be here” at DOL.

The news in late September that Perez was among the candidates being considered to replace Holder had industry officials speculating if Perez’s exit could further delay the release of the fiduciary redraft.

“We’re proceeding under the assumption that there will be a proposal,” Dale Brown, president and CEO of the Financial Services Institute, said Sept. 29 at FSI’s 2nd Annual Advisor Summit in Washington.

Phyllis Borzi, assistant secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration and the main architect of the DOL’s fiduciary rule, “is intent” on getting a fiduciary reproposal out, and Perez’s potential move to the attorney general spot wouldn’t stop its release, Brown told ThinkAdvisor at the September FSI summit.

Mercer Bullard, founder of Fund Democracy and associate professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law, told ThinkAdvisor in an email message that “fiduciary duty stalwarts” will remain at DOL if Perez were to leave. “I don’t see [Perez’s potential departure] having any effect” on release of a fiducairy redraft, he said. “How much slower could it go?”

Robert Lewis, FSI’s vice president of legislative affairs, noted at the summit that DOL’s redraft could come even later than January, adding that FSI is still “actively educating Congress” regarding FSI’s opposition to DOL’s fiduciary rulemaking and urged advisors to help.

“We don’t want the momentum to fade away,” Lewis said. “We have to continue to keep [lawmakers’] interest” in the DOL’s reproposal.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Jo White told members of the Senate Banking Committee in early September that commission staffers continue to provide “regulatory expertise” to the DOL as it considers potential changes to the definition of fiduciary under ERISA.