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DOL Fiduciary News: January 10, 2018

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‘Fiduciary Rule’ Poised for Second Life Under Trump Administration

The Wall Street Journal; Jan. 10, 2018 5:30 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration’s threat to dismantle Obama-era rules that cracked down on conflicted advice from stock brokers won’t mean no rules at all. Instead, they could emerge from a different regulator who Wall Street knows a little better.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is accelerating work on its own version of the “fiduciary rule,” a regulation issued by the Labor Department that put restraints on brokers handling retirement accounts. The SEC’s effort would affect all brokerage accounts—not just those for retirement funds—and could ban brokers from calling themselves financial advisers unless they accept a strict duty of loyalty to clients.

The SEC hopes to vote to propose its rules by the second quarter of 2018, according to people familiar with the matter. That would be a first step toward creating consistent federal standards for all brokerage accounts, since the Labor Department’s rules only covered 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts, or IRAs.

Consumer groups that backed the fiduciary rule, introduced at the end of the Obama administration, are likely to oppose the SEC proposal if they believe it would give Wall Street an end run around Labor’s stricter approach. Those groups will watch for how the SEC goes after conflicts of interest such as bonuses and perks that brokerage firms provide to their employees for selling particularly lucrative products, said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America. 
(http://www.wsj.com)

4 Ways New York May Make DOL Look Like a Fiduciary Kitten

ThinkAdvisor; January 8, 2018

If state insurance regulators wrestle control over annuity sales standards away from the U.S. Department of Labor, some states could end up making the DOL look like a gentle little kitten.

Miami-based legal analysts at Carlton Fields Jorden Burt P.A., a law firm, raise that possibility in a look at new draft regulations released in December by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

The DOL has decided to delay the implementation of its own DOL fiduciary rule best interest standard guidelines by at least 18 months.

New York state regulators have responded by proposing a new version of the state's Suitability in Annuity Transactions regulation. A new, broader Suitability in Life Insurance and Annuity Transactions regulation could include a best interest standard and best interest definition. The best interest standard would require an insurance agent to act in the best interest of the customer when recommending a life insurance product or annuity.

Other states have also been working on adding a best interest standard to their own annuity suitability standards.
(http://www.thinkadvisor.com)

Bill Would Clear Way for More Annuities in Retirement Plans

ThinkAdvisor; January 8, 2018

Lawmakers are floating two bills to provide retirees with access to annuities and to modernize how they receive retirement statements.

Reps. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., and Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., introduced Monday H.R. 4604, the Increasing Access to a Secure Retirement Act (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4604), while Reps. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. and Jared Polis, D-Colo., reintroduced H.R. 4610, the Receiving Electronic Statements to Improve Retiree Earnings Act, or RETIRE Act (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4610).

The Increasing Access to a Secure Retirement Act would enable employers to provide workers guaranteed lifetime income products in their retirement plans.

The bill provides a clear path for employers to meet their fiduciary obligations and will allow more retirement savers the opportunity to convert their retirement savings into guaranteed lifetime income.
(http://www.thinkadvisor.com)