Today, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule delaying the applicability of the full protections of the conflict of interest fiduciary rule by a full year and a half, from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019.

The investment advisory and financial planning industries, as well as consumer watchdog groups, say the delay in best interest sales requirements and the enforcement of the rule, leave investors preparing for retirement without important protections from brokerage sales misconduct. In contrast, the brokerage, securities and insurance industries, which have been fighting the DOL’s fiduciary rule in District Court, hailed the delay as a victory for avoiding consumer and industry confusion.

The Financial Planning Coalition said delaying the fiduciary rules enforcement provisions “unnecessarily derails essential and long overdue reform and jeopardizes the financial well-being of millions of American savers, who lose billions of dollars each year because of conflicts of interest.”

The Coalition, which includes the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board), the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), “strongly urges the Department to continue its work toward full implementation of investment-advice standards that can support businesses and consumers as soon as possible,” the group said in a statement after the DOL’s delay today. 

“The Coalition believes that requiring advisors to work in retirement investors’ best interest is an essential and long overdue reform,” the group said. Delaying enforcement of the fiduciary rule is unnecessary because the DOL has already addressed concerns raised by lawmakers, regulators, financial industry organizations, public interest groups and consumers,” the Coalition added.

Consumers groups say the delay effectively guts protections against sales abuses that the DOL rule was designed to provide to retirement investors. “The Trump Administration’s actions prove that it is far less interested in protecting investors from the harmful effects of conflicts of interest than it is in catering to Wall Street interests,” the broad-based Save Our Retirement (SOR) Coalition said in a statement following the DOL’s delay earlier today.

“This action is effectively a repeal of the fiduciary rule’s most critical provisions -- the provisions that ensure the rule is effective and enforceable and that financial advisors and their firms are accountable for providing the best interest advice retirement savers both want and need,” said the SOR Coalition, whose steering members include the AFL-CIO, Consumer Federation of America and Pension Rights Center.

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