Because the Department of Labor must have its new fiduciary rule in place before Jan. 20, 2017, the day the new administration takes office, DOL will push to issue a final rule by May 2016, according to ERISA lawyer Steve Saxon.
After the comment period expires July 21 on its reproposed rule to amend the definition of fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and DOL conducts an August hearing on the redraft, DOL will not have time to issue a reproposal of the plan, rather the department will go straight to a final rule, Saxon, chairman of Groom Law Group, said Monday at the annual SPARK conference in Washington.
If the DOL’s redraft is still “outstanding” by Inauguration Day, and a Republican candidate wins, that would present problems for the Obama administration-backed rule, Saxon said.
While current legislative efforts to require the Securities and Exchange Commission to move first before DOL in issuing a fiduciary plan will “get considered” by lawmakers, Saxon said, the DOL “will forge ahead” with its fiduciary redraft.
Saxon also noted an October effort looming to “defund” DOL’s fiduciary plan.
Both Saxon and Groom attorney Tom Roberts, who also spoke at the SPARK event, wondered how the recent letter from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., regarding conflicts of interest tied to incentives offered by the 15 largest annuity providers will impact DOL’s fiduciary rulemaking.
Warren’s April letter was sent to the companies with the highest 2014 U.S. individual annuity sales: Jackson National Life, AIG Cos., Lincoln Financial Group, Allianz Life, TIAA-CREF, New York Life, Prudential Annuities, Transamerica, AXA USA, MetLife, Nationwide, Pacific Life, Forethought Annuity, RiverSource Life Insurance and Security Benefit Life.
Warren’s letter raised concerns about the rewards and incentives these companies offer to brokers and dealers who sell annuities to families and small investors, explaining that “annuity providers offer a vast range of perks — from cruises to international travel to iPads to diamond-encrusted ‘NFL Super Bowl Style’ rings to cash and stock options — to entice sales of their products.”