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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • DOL Announces Intention to Delay Portions of Fiduciary Rule Exemptions


    On August 9, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) filed a notice of administrative action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota as part of an ongoing lawsuit between the DOL and a wealth management firm. In the notice, the DOL said that it has submitted a proposal (text currently unavailable) to the Office of Management and Budget to delay the fiduciary rule’s second applicability date to July 1, 2019, instead of taking effect January 1, 2018 as previously announced (portions of the rule, however, took effect June 9, 2017). (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The rule—which expands the definition of who qualifies as a “fiduciary” under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code—will allow for a delay of applicability under the proposal for certain exemptions, such as (i) “Best Interest Contract Exemption”; (ii) “Class Exemption for Principal Transactions in Certain Assets Between Investment Advice Fiduciaries and Employee Benefit Plans and IRAs”; and (iii) “Prohibited Transaction Exemption . . . for Certain Transactions Involving Insurance Agents and Brokers, Pension Consultants, Insurance Companies, and Investment Company Principal Underwriters.”

    Securities Department of Labor DOL Fiduciary Rule

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  • SEC Requests Public Comments on Investment Adviser Conduct Rules

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On June 2, 2017, Jay Clayton, Chairman of the SEC, requested public input on standards of conduct for investment advisers and broker-dealers. The SEC last solicited input on the regulation of investment advisers in 2013 and Clayton believes that advances in technology and changes in business models have since transformed the market for retail investment advice. Additionally, confusion surrounding investment adviser conflicts of interest, among other things, have prompted the SEC to seek feedback on the standards. Topics touched on in the request include:

    • types of advisers providing investment advice and applicable standards of conduct for each;
    • conflicts of interest;
    • effects of market developments and advances in technology;
    • fee-based vs. commission-based investment advice;
    • department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule;
    • pros and cons of multiple standards of conduct for advisers;
    • effects on particular segments of the market;
    • disclosure-based vs. standards-of-conduct-based regulatory action;
    • who should be considered “retail investors”;
    • how should “investment advice” be defined;
    • costs and benefits of different regulatory approaches;
    • comparison of U.S. regulation to non-U.S. regulation in this area;
    • material changes since last data solicitation in 2013.

    Clayton hopes his solicitation will garner “robust, substantive input that will advance and inform the SEC’s assessment of possible future actions.”

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance SEC DOL Fiduciary Rule Broker-Dealer Securities

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  • DOL Announces No Additional Delay for Fiduciary Rule


    On May 22, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a news brief providing  Fiduciary Rule guidance in anticipation of the upcoming June 9 partial effectiveness date. The Fiduciary Rule—a 2016 final rule expanding the definition of who qualifies as a “fiduciary” under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code—will go into effect as planned with full implementation on January 1, 2018. DOL Secretary Alexander Acosta wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the Administrative Procedures Act, which governs federal rulemaking, would not allow a further delay. “We...have found no principled legal basis to change the June 9 date while we seek public input,” Acosta wrote. “Respect for the rule of law leads us to the conclusion that this date cannot be postponed.” The DOL’s release also includes Frequently Asked Questions, which provides clarification on the release dates of the provisions and related prohibited transaction exemptions. Although Acosta declined to authorize a further delay, he said that the DOL will continue its review of the final rule pursuant to the President’s February 3 Presidential Memorandum on Fiduciary Duty Rule. (See previous InfoBytes summary here.)

    Notably, the DOL asserted that its general approach to implementation will be marked by an emphasis on compliance assistance (rather than citing violations and imposing penalties). Accordingly, during the phased implementation period, the DOL will not pursue claims against “fiduciaries who are working diligently and in good faith to comply with the fiduciary duty rule and exemptions,” or treat those fiduciaries as being in violation of the fiduciary duty rule and exemptions.

    Securities Department of Labor DOL Fiduciary Rule

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  • DOL Extends Fiduciary Rule Applicability Date by 60 Days


    On April 4, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a 60-day extension of the applicability dates of its “Fiduciary Rule”—a 2016 final rule expanding the definition of who qualifies as a “fiduciary” under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code. The rule treats persons who provide investment advice or recommendations for a fee or other compensation with respect to assets of a plan or IRA as fiduciaries in a wider array of “advice relationships.” The extension also delays (by 60 days) the applicability of certain prohibited transaction exemptions. Accordingly, exemptions such as the “Best Interest Contract Exemption” and the “Principal Transaction Exemption” will become applicable on June 9, 2017. In its press release announcing the issuance of the final rule, the DOL noted, among other things, that the extensions are necessary to enable the DOL to perform the examination of the fiduciary rule directed by the President in his February 3 Presidential Memorandum (see previously posted InfoBytes summary regarding February 3 memo) to consider possible changes with respect to the fiduciary rule and related Prohibited Transaction Exemptions based on new evidence or analysis developed pursuant to the examination.   

    The 60-day extension was published in the Federal Register on April 7. As previously covered on InfoBytes, the DOL has released two sets of “frequently asked questions” about the Fiduciary Rule.

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  • Members of the House Financial Services Committee Weigh in on Rollout of the DOL Fiduciary Rule


    On March 17, GOP members of the House Financial Services Committee sent a letter to Acting Labor Secretary Ed Hugler expressing their support for the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) proposal to delay the implementation of its Fiduciary Rule from April 10 until June 9. The letter asserts, among other things, that a delay is “necessary to review the rule’s scope and assess potential harm to investors, disruptions within the retirement services industry, and increases in litigation, as required by the Presidential Memorandum signed by President Trump on February 3, 2017.” The GOP Members also note that they “have long been concerned with the DOL Fiduciary Rule's impact on retail investors and the U.S. capital markets,” and, have therefore “advocated that the expert regulator—the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)—should craft an applicable rule.” 

    Later that day, House Democrats sent their own letter to the Acting Labor Secretary expressing opposition to the DOL’s proposed 60-day delay of its Fiduciary Rule. Specifically, the Democratic members contend that “the rule is reasonable and workable for advisers,” because, among other reasons, “the DOL provided appropriate relief that mitigates industry concerns and compliance costs.”

    Securities DOL Fiduciary Rule Fiduciary Rule House Financial Services Committee Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Investment Adviser

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