President Barack Obama's re-election may directly impact financial advisors and their clients by bringing several regulatory and legislative issues to the forefront, according to a panel of financial industry experts.
In a TD Ameritrade webinar, Christopher Hatcher and Joel Oswald, both principals with Williams and Jensen, a Washington DC-based government affairs law firm, and Brian Graff, executive director of the American Society of Pension Professional and Actuaries, discussed how Obamas' victory could impact several lingering financial issues, both on the industry and national level, in the coming year.
Advisors and their clients will be carefully watching to see if the Securities and Exchange Commission passes a uniform fiduciary standard next year that covers all brokers and financial advisors. "Certainly there are a number of proponents who are pushing for a uniform fiduciary standard," Oswald said. "It will certainly be a highly scrutinized proposal and all the various industry segments would be engaged in that."
Oswald said advisors will also be watching closely to see whether the
Department of Labor re-proposes to expand financial advisors' fiduciary duty
when giving a client investment advice on an individual retirement
account that falls under the 1975 Employee Retirement Income Security
Act (Erisa). "With the president winning, I think there's the clear
expectation that the DOL will move forward with a re-proposal," he said.
"I'm not sure of the exact timing, but wouldn't be sure if it's not in
the coming weeks or months."
Brian Graff, executive director of the American Society of Pension Professional and Actuaries, predicted that Washington will also be addressing a handful of retirement related tax issues that may impact advisors and their clients' pocketbooks. He said the president and the Republican leadership in Congress have indicated they want tax reform that's likely to negatively impact retirement contributions by reducing government-crafted tax incentives and deductions on those plans."This increases the likelihood of something happening like it did in 1986," Graff said. "The contribution limit for 401(k)s and for individual retirement accounts were dramatically cut the last time they did tax reform. If you remember, they decimated the IRA industry and they cut 401(k) contribution limits by 70 percent."
On the broader issues, Congress's most pressing legislative issue, said panelists, is the "fiscal cliff," the term used to refer to expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts set to take effect at the end of this year.
Hatcher said that if the White House and Congress agree upon an income threshold, it could serve as a big driver to settling the issue by year end. He also predicted any deal will include an income-tax rate increase for some higher-level income earners. "Congress agreed several months ago to stick to the same policy threshold of $250,000 joint income," he said. "It's fairly likely then that those income tax rates will rise."
Congress's next big legislative hurdle, extending the national debt limit, will likely be tackled in the first quarter of 2013, said Hatcher. "If Congress doesn't do a debt-limit extension or expansion in the lame duck session, it's the next time frame where significant policy issues can happen," he said.