Lawmakers asked Labor Secretary Thomas Perez in two separate letters this week to extend by another 45 days the comment period on the Department’s redraft of its rule to amend the definition of fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
Industry trade groups had sent a letter to Perez in late April requesting that the comment period be extended due to the redraft’s “breadth.” When asked in late April if DOL would extend the comment period, Perez reiterated the previously stated 75-day comment period deadline.
But fiduciary advocates urged Perez in a Friday letter to rebuff the requests for an extension.
In their letters, House and Senate members said the DOL should give “constituents, Congress and all other stakeholders an extra 45 days to allow for thoughtful and constructive feedback so that the Department may put forth the best possible final rule that protects investors.”
The Senate letter states that a 120-day comment period would allow for “more thoughtful comments” considering “the complex nature and far-reaching effects” of the proposed rule.
The House letter notes that the proposal’s “detailed regulatory language, a brand new ‘Best Interests Contract’ exemption, a lengthy regulatory impact analysis” and rewrites of several prohibited transactions exemptions need to be fully understood before commenters can provide feedback on the proposal.
However, in a Friday letter, the Save Our Retirement Coalition–which includes the AARP, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Americans for Financial Reform, Better Markets, Consumer Federation of America and Pension Rights Center–state that 75 days is “ample” time for comments. ”We urge you to resist requests to extend the comment period” for DOL’s proposed fiduciary duty rule, the groups told Perez, “and continue the rulemaking process as scheduled. There is no justification for further delay in the effort to close the loopholes in the DOL’s outdated rules that are costing American workers and retirees tens of billions of dollars annually. Every American expects and deserves retirement investment advice that is in their best interest, and that is simply and fundamentally what the DOL is seeking to ensure.”
The groups go on to state that the 75-day comment period ”is already longer than the 60 days considered appropriate under Executive Order 12866, and more than twice as long as the minimum 30-day period set forth in the Administrative Procedures Act.”
Moreover, “once this initial comment period is over, the DOL is planning to conduct a public hearing and then allow yet additional time for public comment. Each of these steps follows years of extensive outreach and consultation by the DOL with all stakeholders—supporters and opponents alike—while the DOL was evaluating the need for an updated rule and crafting a proposal.”
Further, the groups say that the industry’s request for an extension “also strains credibility, since they have massive resources and expertise at their disposal and can undoubtedly analyze the proposed rule and prepare their comments well within the 75-day comment period.”