The Department of Labor today rolled out the final version of its fiduciary rule for advisors with significant changes from what it proposed last April.

Labor Secretary Tom Perez said the regulations have been streamlined, simplified and clarified.

“It’s a huge win for the middle class,” said Perez, adding the rule will save tens of thousands of dollars for many workers and help them have a dignified retirement.

Among the key changes:

• An extension from eight months to a year for retirement advisory businesses to acknowledge their status as fiduciaries, meaning they are adhering to the best-interest standard, and to make basic conflict-of-interest disclosures. Firms will now have until January 1, 2018, for full compliance.

• For the first time, the fiduciary standard states explicitly that proprietary products such as fixed index annuities and variable annuities can be recommended by advisors who won’t have to tell clients about similar investments offered by competitors.

“I don’t think there is an obligation of an employee of MetLife to advise on products New York Life is selling,” said Perez.

Perez said proprietary products have an important place in the retirement investment marketplace.

• “A number of changes” to increase access to financial advice for employees of small businesses.

• The rule has been reworded to make clear that advisors do not act as fiduciaries merely by recommending a customer hire them for advisory or asset management services.

• Advisors are explicitly exempted from the best-interest standard for communications that “a reasonable person would not view as an investment recommendation,” such as general-circulation newsletters; television, radio and talk show commentary; and generally attended speeches and conferences.

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