Financial advisors' concerns about the Department of Labor's proposed fiduciary rule, taxes and legislative initiatives will be given high priority FPA's second annual Advocacy Day in Washington.

FPA leaders and about 60 members of the association will meet with members of Congress, legislative and government agency staffers, and White House staff members on Wednesday to press their case for issues that affect consumers and financial planners.

"Washington is welcoming us with open arms and asking for our input," FPA president Janet Stanzak, who is also principal and owner of Bloomington, Minn.-based Financial Empowerment, said at a media roundtable in Washington on Tuesday.

FOCUS ON FIDUCIARY RULE

Inevitably, the fiduciary rule proposed by the Labor Department this spring is taking up most of the spotlight.

The FPA and its partners, the CFP Board and NAPFA -- which together make up the Financial Planning Coalition -- strongly support the rule and see it as part of their mission to put "the best interest of the client first and foremost," said FPA president Ed Gjertsen.

The Labor Department's proposed rule provides advisors and firms with the flexibility "necessary to provide fiduciary-level advice across business models," according to a position paper released by the FPC.

FPA advocates will also counter claims by opponents of the proposed Labor Department rule that advisors will be driven out of business if they must comply with a best-interest standard.

"There are plenty of advisors who are more than willing to take on those middle-market clients who have been abandoned by the big firms," said Gjertsen, who is also vice president of Mack Investment Securities in Northfield, Ill.

What's more, claims that a fiduciary standard will dry up the market are inconsistent with the CFP Board's experience following the adoption of a fiduciary standard for CFPs in 2007, according to the FPC. 
The number of CFP professionals has increased by more than 30% since the CFP Board adopted its fiduciary standard, it says.

The Labor Department should "proceed to full and open public evaluation and comment without obstruction," according to the FPC's position paper.

'COMPREHENSIVE' COMMENT LETTER

The FPC does plan to send a "very comprehensive" comment letter to the FPA, Gjertsen said.

Included will be recommendations to allow sufficient time for implementation, "perhaps through a phased-in approach – the  proposed eight-month time frame is too short," he said.

The FPC also wants the Labor Department to reduce and streamline disclosure and reporting obligations.

FPA advocates will also "strongly oppose" H.R. 1090, the proposed and "ill-named" Retail Investor Protection Act, as well as proposed  taxes on financial services in California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, Gjertsen said.

Legislators will be asked to support a user fee to implement the SEC's ability to carry out its inspection and examination program, rather than allow the program to be funded by a membership fee to a FINRA self-regulatory organization.

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