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Despite Threats to DOL Rule, Advisors Urged to Finish Compliance Efforts

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Despite widespread views that the incoming Trump administration and GOP lawmakers will seek to kill or significantly curtail DOL’s fiduciary rule, along with potential legal rulings to vacate or halt the rule, advisors are forging ahead with their compliance – albeit at a somewhat more cautious pace.

“The DOL rule is certainly under consideration” in the new administration, “but whether it is repealed or pushed back is unclear,” Neil Simon, vice president for Government Relations at the Investment Adviser Association in Washington, told ThinkAdvisor on Friday. “I expect that the implementation date in April will take place and that advisors should be prepared.”

Simon said that the DOL, under a new administration, could stop fighting the current lawsuits brought against the rule, adding that it could be May before a new Labor Secretary is installed by the Trump administration. 

Sarah Kelly, Boston Trust Investment Management’s chief compliance officer, noted on a Friday panel discussion at IA Watch’s conference in Washington on the regulatory fallout from the election, that while her firm is still implementing its compliance plans, she had “a greater sense of urgency” to comply with DOL’s rule before the election. “We were ramping up, and we have definitely taken a step back,” particularly as it relates to investments in technology.

But James Downing, chief compliance officer at BMO Harris Financial Advisors, who sat on the panel with Kelly, urged attendees to “not put this thing on hold. I would recommend to keep working” on compliance with DOL’s rule.

Ken Laverriere, a partner at Shearman & Sterling in New York, who sat on the panel with Downing and Kelly, said that he’s “more bullish on a legislative change–and a quick one” to the DOL rule, such as Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act. “There is some room in a legislative solution to take the rule off the table” and to give Congress and DOL time to work through revisions. “No regulatory alernatives are particularly attractive.”