Responding to pressure from Congress and industry trade groups, the Department of Labor said late Friday that it would extend the comment period on its fiduciary redraft by 15 days.
DOL has received requests from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as industry trade groups to extend the current 75-day comment period by another 45 days.
The most recent letter came Tuesday from top GOP lawmakers, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has oversight authority of DOL, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asking Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to extend the comment period to 120 days.
The current 75-day comment period, which ends on July 6, “is not an appropriate amount of time,” the Senators told Perez.
DOL said in a statement late Friday afternoon that it will extend the comment period on its fiduciary redraft, known as the Conflict of Interest Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, by 15 days.
A notice announcing this extension, as well as the dates of public hearings, which will take place during the week of August 10, 2015, will be published in a forthcoming edition of the Federal Register, DOL said.
Industry trade groups asked Perez in late April to extend the comment period, but when asked if DOL would honor that request, Perez reiterated DOL’s previously stated 75-day comment guidelines.
On Friday, DOL said in a statement that “although the proposed rule included a 75-day comment period from the date of publication, the department has made clear that the opportunity for public input would not end after 75 days.”
Continued DOL: “There will be a public hearing within 30 days of the close of the initial comment period, after which the comment period will reopen until approximately two weeks after the hearing transcript is published – a process that the department anticipates will provide an additional 30 to 45 days of public comment. In total, the 75-day comment period would in fact have provided between 111 and 127 days of public comment when these additional steps are considered.”
With the 15-day extension, “the initial comment period will be 90 days and the department anticipates the opportunity for public comments may be more than 140 days in total,” which DOL says is “considerably longer than the typical comment period for the Employee Benefits Security Administration’s other proposed rulemakings.”
But the Financial Services Roundtable said Friday that while the 15-day extension period is “appreciated,” FSR wants DOL to further consider granting “a full extension,” which would move the comment period to mid-August.
“Federal Regulators need to understand how this rule will impact low and moderate-income people saving for retirement and a more inclusive comment period will yield better feedback while regulators continue to focus on holding bad actors accountable,” said FSR Executive Vice President of Government Relations, Francis Creighton, in a statement. “The Department has told us on multiple occasions they want a thoughtful response on a thousand page rulemaking they spent four years devising. While we appreciate the extra two weeks, federal regulators should further extend the comment period.”
Fiduciary advocates have urged Perez to rebuff the requests for an extended comment period.
DOL said Friday that the length of the 15-day extension “takes into account the views of stakeholders who have asked the department not to alter its timeline for the comment period at all.”
The department “believes that this accommodation will provide adequate time for the public to provide their input on this issue and for the Administration to continue its dialogue with the stakeholder community.”