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Wall Street bristles at new fiduciary standards

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Wall Street reacted Monday just as might be expected to President Obama’s endorsement of the Department of Labor’s new fiduciary standard, warning it could unleash a host of unintended consequences.

Consumer interest groups, labor organizations and other supporters of the DOL’s bid to expand the rule predictably embraced it. 

Here’s a collection of those voices, from both sides of the debate: 

Brian Graff, executive director of the National Association of Plan Advisors 

“People should be protected from unfair and deceptive practices, but all indications are that this rule will block Americans from working with the financial advisors and investment providers they trust simply because they offer different financial products — like annuities and mutual funds — with different fees. This rule could even restrict who can help you with your 401(k) rollover.” 

Knut Rostad, president, Institute for the Fiduciary Standard 

“The Institute for the Fiduciary Standard applauds the president’s forceful statement stressing the urgency of enforcing centuries-old fiduciary law. Conflicts of interest harms’ are clear and rightly the focus of the DOL rule. The opportunity is also clear. It is to re-imagine all financial advice as objective and truly reflecting what is best for investors. Tens of millions of Americans who are relying on their retirement accounts demand no less.” 

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee

“It is concerning the administration is moving forward with this rule after little to no consultation with congressional tax leaders.  Because IRAs are tax-preferred savings accounts and not employee benefit plans, any new fiduciary rules regarding IRAs should be drafted by the Treasury Department. After all, it is the Treasury’s responsibility to enforce the tax code, not the Labor Department.”  Kenneth Bentsen Jr., president and CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association

“While we cannot comment on a proposal we have not yet seen, we have ongoing concerns that the DOL regulation could adversely affect retirement savers, particularly middle-class workers.”

As the process moves forward, “OMB must consider all of the facts, including the fact that the brokerage industry is highly regulated” by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, “including with respect to retirement accounts, and in particular, recent guidance by FINRA with respect to rollovers.”

Joint statement from the AARP, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Americans for Financial Reform, Better Markets, Consumer Federation of America and Pension Rights Center 

“By all accounts, the Department of Labor has engaged in a thorough economic analysis and careful deliberations. We hope and expect that once the rule is finalized, it will move all Americans closer to a decent, financially secure retirement.” 

The new regulation, Bentsen said, “could limit investor choice, cause inconsistencies as different regulators would apply different standards to the same retirement accounts, prohibit access to investor guidance, and raise the costs of saving for retirement.”

Cathy Weatherford, president and CEO, Insured Retirement Institute, an advocacy group for insurers, investment managers and broker-dealers 

“The original fiduciary rule proposal, which was withdrawn in 2011, would have had many unintended consequences, including blocking millions of middle-class Americans from accessing important financial planning assistance and services. The administration has not yet shared their proposal with us, but our primary objective will be to work with the administration to ensure that the rule does not have the unintended consequence of hampering American savers’ ability to access retirement planning help.” 

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards 

“As a fervent advocate for strong fiduciary standards in the provision of investment advice, CFP Board is pleased to see the White House and Department of Labor take a critical step toward protecting American investors and their retirement savings through a fiduciary rule under ERISA.” 

Hester Peirce, senior research fellow, Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a conservative think-tank 

“As DOL continues to contemplate change in this area, it should carefully consider the potential consequences of any changes, including the effects on investors of modest means. In crafting the rule and understanding the consequences, DOL should also work with the Securities and Exchange Commission. As has too often been the case in financial services regulation, good intentions could produce bad results for Americans trying to save for retirement.” 

Deborah Forbes, executive director of the Committee on Investment of Employee Benefit Assets, a trade group of 100 chief investment officers for some the largest 401(k) plans 

“ERISA was written over 40 years ago and couldn’t possibly take into account all the types of savings accounts in the marketplace today. … 

“CIEBA members are concerned about harmful conflicts of interest, particularly in the aggressive marketing of IRAs to 401(k) plan participants when they leave employment. … CIEBA believes that participants deserve unbiased advice and that anyone providing advice on investing 401(k) assets should be held to the same standards as plan sponsors.” 

Paul Schott Stevens, president and CEO, Investment Company Institute, trade association of mutual fund companies

“It is vital that any proposed rules be carefully tailored to ensure that employers and savers still have access to … support and service. Achieving the goal of thoughtful and balanced regulation is never easy, and regulators must reply upon data and facts — not overheated rhetoric.” 

Josh Brown, CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management and CNBC contributor 

“Technology is the bridge to allow the industry to adapt to new rules. The current ones reflect antiquated business models that predate a lot of innovation. Not everything has to stay the way it was in the 1930s.”


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