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ACLI and NAIFA Fear New DOL Attacks on Commissions

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Life insurance groups are wondering whether the U.S. Department of Labor will put off enforcing the current version of the fiduciary rule, then come back with new regulations that continue what the groups see as an attack on commission-based life insurance and annuity product distribution efforts.

James Szostek and Howard Bard told the DOL, on behalf of the American Council of Life Insurers, to get away from the idea of favoring certain types of retirement services, or certain types of retirement services compensation arrangements.

“Exemptive relief should be available regardless of whether the compensation earned follows a recommendation regarding an annuity, a share of stock, a bond, a bank CD or mutual fund and regardless of whether the fiduciary provides services on a fee-for-service or commission basis,” the Szostek and Bard write in a comment letter.

(Related: DOL Fiduciary Rule Delay All but Certain as Comment Period Closes

The DOL’s “clear bias against particular products and its preference for the fee-for-service advice model over a commission-based model” conflicts with the Trump administration’s view that Americans should be trusted to decide what’s best for them, the ACLI representatives write.

Paul Dougherty, president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, blasted a Consumer Federation of America proposal calling for the DOL to give favorable treatment to companies that have already shifted toward fee-based pricing.

“Such an approach would amount to the department picking winners and losers among firms based on a highly ambiguous and biased ‘standard,’” Dougherty writes in a NAIFA a comment letter.

Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) Delays

Representatives from ACLI and NAIFA talk about bias against sales commissions in comment letters sent to the Employee Benefits Security Administration.

The ACLI and NAIFA sent the letters to respond to efforts by EBSA’s parent, the DOL, to postpone the applicability dates of retirement services regulations and regulation changes that reflect the changes included in the DOL fiduciary rule.

One of the regulations involved is is the Best Interest Contract Exemption (BICE), or Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 2016-01. That PTE spells out general rules financial services companies can use to structure retirement services compensation arrangements.

Another key regulation, PTE 84-24, governs the structure of compensation arrangements involving insurers and insurance agents and brokers.

Comments on the PTE applicability delays were due Friday.

EBSA has posted a collection of comment letters here.

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