Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Tina Smith, D-Minn., are pressing Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia to lay out steps he’s taking to ensure this round of fiduciary rule comments aren’t fake.
The senators cite a 2017 Wall Street Journal analysis, which found that 40% of the respondents to Labor’s now-defunct 2016 fiduciary rule “didn’t write the posts that were attributed to them,” with “most of the 345 comments [analyzed] critical of the fiduciary rule,” the senators told Scalia Friday in a letter, which was led by Smith.
The three lawmakers, all members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, questioned “the integrity of public comments” now as Labor reviews comments on its new prohibited transaction exemption aligning with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Regulation Best Interest, as well as a final rule reinstating the five-part test under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
As of Friday, Labor said it had received 105 comments on its fiduciary plan.
“As you know, making false statements to the federal government can be a criminal offense, and the widespread submission of fake comment letters raises troubling questions about potential abuses by industry groups hiding behind false identities while seeking to defeat a key investor protection initiative,” the senators wrote.
“Furthermore, even if the fake comments did not unduly bias the rulemaking process, ordinary Americans should not have their reputations harmed by having false comments submitted in their names by unknown advocates in support of industry-favored positions.”