The U.S. Department of Labor has delayed the issuance of a new fiduciary rule for broker-dealers and advisors to retirement plans until next January, according to a DOL notice issued Tuesday.
The rule, which has been years in the making, was expected to be released in August.
The rule would extend fiduciary status to those giving advice about employer-sponsored retirement plans and IRAs. When it was first proposed in 2010, the changes sparked harsh criticism among financial industry advocates.
Critics have said it will limit the amount of advice retirement account holders can receive, especially those with small accounts. Industry representatives also said it might drive broker-dealers out of the retirement plan market by limiting commissions and revenue sharing.
The DOL originally proposed the change as a way to protect retirement plan holders from receiving conflicted advice about their accounts.
The situation became more complicated by the fact that the SEC also is considering changes to its fiduciary rules. Many in the financial industry have advocated for the SEC to take the lead in the rules battle, rather than having two sets of rules from two agencies.
Kenneth E. Bentsen Jr., president and CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (Sifma), welcomed the delay.
“From day one, this has been a troubled proposal by DOL that will harm the ability of everyday American investors and small business owners to save for retirement,” Bentson said. “While this extended timeline provides a temporary delay, we believe that it is the responsibility of the SEC to act, under the authority provided to them by the Dodd-Frank Act.
“Premature actions by the DOL, whether now or in January, could undermine the SEC’s work to improve upon the standard of conduct owed by broker-dealers and investment advisors to retail clients,” he added. “Any proposal moving forward should appropriately reflect the input of all market participants and continue to protect investor choice and access to investment guidance.”
Christopher J. Paulitz, senior vice president membership and marketing of the Financial Services Institute, also had no problem with the delay. “Our main goal is that they get the rule right, not get it out fast,” he said. “We remain eager to be helpful to the department to ensure small investors can continue to have access to affordable, objective financial advice.”