The second-term Republican congresswoman from Missouri has become the de facto tip-of-the-spear against the Department of Labor’s recently proposed conflict of interest rule, which seeks to place a fiduciary standard of care on all advisors to retirement plans and individual retirement accounts.
“I find it despicable that Sen. Warren, D-Massachusetts, would take an entire industry and essentially call them all snake-oil salesman,” said Rep. Anne Wagner in an interview between appropriations votes on the House Floor last week.
“This proposal is another instance of top-down, Washington-knows-best approach. But the Obama Administration has shown no investor harm. This rule is a solution in search of a problem,” she said.
Since the Department of Labor released its proposed fiduciary rule a couple of weeks ago, momentum seems to have shifted in favor of those for it.
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Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has been unambiguous in relating the Administration’s intention to see the proposal through, saying not establishing a new rule is not an “acceptable outcome,” in the press conference announcing the proposal’s release.
Even some of the largest broker-dealer stakeholders have stuck a more accommodative tone since the proposal’s release. John Thiel, head of wealth management at Merrill Lynch, has encouraged the industry to work in a “constructive and collaborative” manner with the DOL.
LPL, the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer, said it was “encouraged” by concessions the DOL made in its new proposal.
And last week, Sec. Perez quickly refused to oblige a request from broker and insurance industry advocates to extend the ongoing 75-day comment period, according to reporting in ThinkAdvisor.
Wagner says she knows what she’s up against, “Nothing about this will be easy.”
When she introduced the Retail Investor Protection Act in 2013, she and her cohorts were able to garner notable bi-partisan support. Ultimately the bill died in the Senate, which was under Democratic control at the time.
Wagner reintroduced the bill earlier this, ahead of the DOL’s release of the proposal.
The bill would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to be the lead rule-maker in establishing a new fiduciary standard.
It’s parked in committee right now, and unlikely to move out any time soon. Reports that the legislation will move to a vote on the House floor in the near future are unfounded, according to a Wagner staffer.
If it is brought to a vote, the Republican majority in the House is all but guaranteed to pass it. And reporting from Bloomberg that five Senate Democrats recently met with Sec. Perez to voice their concern over the proposal suggest to Wagner that, this go around, the Retail Investor Protection Act could garner filibuster-proof support in the Senate.
But that law is but one of a three-prong approach that makes up what Wagner called a “full court press” strategy against the proposal.
The second, she said, is a grass-roots effort to get lawmakers educated on what Wagner thinks are the proposal’s perils. A cadre of trade groups like SIFMA and the Insured Retirement Institute is coordinating that.
The third is the appropriations approach.
Wagner sits on the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the entirety of the financial services industry, including the securities, insurance and banking industries, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.