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Bill to Repeal DOL Fiduciary Rule Passes House Panel

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The House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed legislation on Wednesday that would repeal the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule.

The Committee, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-NC, approved the Affordable Retirement Advice for Savers Act (H.R. 2823), by a 22-17 vote.

The legislation that passed the Committee was introduced by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and would require advisors to serve their clients’ best interests and institutes disclosure requirements.

President Donald Trump’s regulatory 2018 spring agenda includes a Labor Department rule based on feedback from comments currently being taken as part of Labor’s request for information (RFI) on whether to delay the rule’s second compliance date, which kicks in on Jan. 1., as well as feedback on 18 questions on ways to revamp the rule.

(Related: What’s Next for the DOL Fiduciary Rule?)

In commenting on the Trump Labor Department’s Spring Regulatory Roadmap, Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, stated that Trump’s plan is “to cut pay for working people, endanger their health and safety in workplaces across numerous industries, and take away vital safeguards that enable consumers to make informed investments to build and protect their retirement savings.”

Initiatives on the president’s agenda, Owens said, “include proposals to reopen the overtime, beryllium, injury and illness tracking, and conflict of interest (or fiduciary) rules, gutting protections for workers and retirement savers who need every dollar they can get and count on OSHA to make sure their jobs are safe and healthy.”

The Affordable Retirement Advice for Savers now moves to the House floor.

“A rule requiring sound retirement advice achieves nothing if it means many people will no longer have access to retirement advice at all,” Roe said after the bill’s passage of out committee. “By raising the bar for the retirement services industry and strengthening protections for savers, H.R. 2823 will help prepare lower- and middle-class Americans for retirement. I will continue to support legislation that will stop government overreach and return decision-making power to the men and women who get up and go to work every day to create a better life for them and their families.”

Foxx added that “we all agree that financial advisors should act in good faith. We can achieve that goal without making it harder for people to build a secure retirement. This legislation proves it.”

Labor is currently taking comments until Friday under the RFI on whether the rule’s Jan. 1 compliance date should be pushed back.

As of Thursday, Labor had received 49 comments on the delay.

Labor is also requesting comments until Aug. 7 under the RFI on 18 questions about potential ways to revise the rule.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce told Labor that “the truncated 30-day comment period for questions two through 18 will inhibit the ability of commenters to gather meaningful data that is responsive to the questions posed in the RFI,” and asked that Labor extend that comment period for these 18 questions to another 30 days beyond Aug.  7, “so that commenters are afforded sufficient time to gather evidence and respond to the RFI.”

The Financial Services Institute told Labor that it supports a delay in the rule’s Jan. 1 applicability date “to allow the DOL to conduct a detailed review of the fiduciary rule, its negative impact on investors’ access to retirement planning services and new innovations and approaches that may alleviate many of these concerns.”

FSI, like Chamber, also requested an extension of the comment period regarding responding to the 18 questions set out in the RFI.

Other bills are looming to derail Labor’s fiduciary rule: the Financial Choice Act, which was introduced by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and passed the House on June 8, as well as a draft bill by Rep. Ann Wagner that also repeals the rule and, as Wagner has stated, keeps the fiduciary issue “under the jurisdiction of the SEC, the expert regulator who has the experience of overseeing the industry.”

Wagner’s draft bill would also applies to both investment and retirement accounts.

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