The rule is finally done, but a new chapter in the war of words is heating up anew.
The Financial Planning Coalition is giving the Department of Labor's final version of the fiduciary rule a full-throated thumbs up. Other organizations were enthusiastic – in expressing their skepticism.
"Based on our initial review, this rule – achieved through an inclusive, comprehensive review process – carefully balances needed consumer protections with preserved access to retirement advice," the coalition, made up of the FPA, NAPFA and the CFP Board of Standards, said in a statement.
"The end result is a rule that will help bring millions of Americans much closer to a secure, dignified retirement," the group's statement continued. "We urge Congress not to harm American investors and retirement savers by dismantling this important consumer protection.”
'NO COMPELLING EVIDENCE'
The Financial Services Institute and SIFMA were hardly welcoming.
"There is no compelling evidence this rule is necessary to achieve a uniform fiduciary standard, and DoL’s own analysis fails to make the case," FSI Chief Executive Dale Brown said in a statement. His organization – which has vociferously opposed the Obama administration’s development of a fiduciary standard since it was first proposed in 2010 – “will spend the coming days thoroughly analyzing" the new rule, he said.
SIFMA also cast aspersions on the justification for the rule, calling its methodology "greatly flawed and lacking sufficient empirical basis."
The association "remains concerned that the DoL's rule could force significant changes to current relationships – which may leave clients without the help they need to prepare for retirement," SIFMA CEO Kenneth Bentsen said in a statement.
"A poorly drafted rule could result in unnecessarily raising costs for investors while limiting their choice," Bentsen added.
MOVING FORWARD ON IMPLEMENTATION
Independent broker-dealers commenting on the new rule were more sympathetic.
LPL Financial, the nation's largest IBD, said that it was "pleased by what appears to be positive changes implemented in the rule and appreciates the Department of Labor’s willingness to listen to concerns about protecting choice for investors."
The IBD giant said in a statement it was particularly encouraged by the increased timeframe the rule will allow for implementation, and "the ability to easily enter into the best interest contract with our existing clients."
LPL added that while it is still reviewing the details, "we now have greater clarity and can begin quickly implementing solutions that will help investors retain access to the objective financial guidance they need."
Cetera Financial Group is also reviewing the details with an eye toward announcing "a number of initiatives" for its advisors in the next few weeks, says Adam Antoniades, president of the unit, which includes 10 IBD firms.
"Preliminarily, it appears the rule includes modifications that indicate the DoL has considered some of the industry’s concerns," Antoniades says.
TRANSPARENCY ON COMPENSATION
Reducing the potential for conflicts of interest between advisors and clients is critical to the financial planning profession, notes Jacob Kuebler, a board member of the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners.
"We believe this can happen by selecting a method of advisor compensation that is not dependent on the outcome of the advisor’s recommendation," says Kuebler, a financial planner and owner of Bluestem Financial Advisors, Champaign, Ill. "We believe a uniform fiduciary standard is a good first step to making this vision a reality.”
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