Two leading investor advocates are labeling as “lip service” and “meaningless” a new effort by two U.S. House Democrats and two Republicans to develop legislation to counter the Department of Labor’s fiduciary proposal for retirement plan advisors.
On the industry side, Financial Services Institute General Counsel David Bellaire praised the congressmen for trying to ensure Americans have access to retirement advice from the advisors of their choice.
“More must be done to adequately address concerns about the rule’s impact on the ability of low- and middle-class families to save for retirement,” the four congressmen said in a joint statement released Thursday night.
The members are Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (R-N.M.).
They said the legislation they are drafting would adhere to the following principles:
• Promoting families and individuals saving for a financially secure retirement is an essential public policy good.
• Retirement advisors must serve in their clients’ best interests and must be required to do so.
• Retirement advisors must deliver clear, simple and relevant disclosure of material conflicts, including compensation received and all investment fees to individuals saving for retirement.
• Public policies must protect access to investment advice and education for low- and middle-income workers and retirees.
• Public policies should never deny individuals the financial information they need to make informed decisions.
• Small business owners should have access to the financial advice and products they need to establish and maintain retirement plans and help workers save for retirement.
• Investor choice and consumer access to all investment services—such as proprietary products, commission-based sales and guaranteed lifetime income—should be preserved in a way that does not pick winners and losers.
Committee for the Fiduciary Standard Chair Kate McBride said the congressmen are falsely calling this framework “fiduciary.”
“What's proposed is suitability with a little more disclosure, and lip service to best interests. It's in the interests of the industry, not investors,” said McBride.
She added the principles are indicative of Wall Street's effort to buy Congress to kill the DOL proposal.
Barbara Roper, Consumer Federation of America director of investor protection, faulted the statement from the congressmen for failing to include a mechanism for making the best interest standard enforceable or any plans to rein in practices that reward advisors for steering customers into high-cost, high-risk investments.