March 24, 2017

U.S. Department of Labor to review investment advice conflict of interest rule

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On Friday, February 3, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order impacting the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Conflict of Interest Rule, commonly referred to as the new Fiduciary Rule.   

The Conflict of Interest Rule imposes fiduciary status on investment advisors who make recommendations to participants in ERISA or individual retirement plans (i.e., 401(k) plans, IRAs, etc.) with respect to securities or other investment property where the advisor receives a fee or other compensation for rendering the advice.   

The Conflict of Interest Rule requires investment advisors to act in the best interest of the investor, limits the compensation that investment advisors can receive and imposes extensive disclosure and recordkeeping obligations upon them, including fee transparency.   

The Rule’s fiduciary requirements are set to become enforceable on April 10, 2017.  

In Friday’s Presidential Memorandum which accompanied the Executive Order, President Trump stated that “[o]ne of the priorities of my Administration is to empower Americans to make their own financial decisions, to facilitate their ability to save for retirement and build the individual wealth necessary to afford typical lifetime expenses, such as buying a home and paying for college, and to withstand unexpected financial emergencies.”  

Finding that the Conflict of Interest rule may “significantly alter the manner in which Americans can receive financial advice” in a way that is inconsistent with this priority, President Trump’s Executive Order directs the DOL to re-examine the Rule to determine whether it may adversely impact the ability of Americans to gain access to retirement information and financial advice.  

The Executive Order does not halt the April 10, 2017, implementation date of the Conflict of Interest Rule, and the DOL has been given 120 days to complete its review.   

However, investment advisers and advisory firms should be on the watch for further developments such as an official delay in implementation or a DOL proposal to rescind or revise the Conflict of Interest Rule.