Now that the Department of Labor is back at the drawing board trying to determine what should constitute a fiduciary under 1975 ERISA amendments, the industry wants to make at least one point clear: investors should have good choices, regardless of the business model their advisors use.

“That’s our top priority,” Chris Paulitz, director of communications for the Financial Services Institute said on Wednesday. “Consumer choice and ensuring the 19 million IRA holders continue to be able to afford professional financial advice and not have to turn to the Internet to plan their financial futures.”

The industry had been abuzz with media reports that the DOL might prevent commission-based financial advisors who advise on IRA accounts from charging commissions. The concern was that the restriction might be too prohibitive for brokers. In turn, that prompted some to hope that the DOL might grant exemptions for brokerages if the IRAs minimum investment requirements for fee-based programs.

“There are exemptions that could make this palatable for our members,” Paulitz said. He added, specifically, that whatever exemptions are considered will not limit investor access to the best affordable advice.

The DOL is considering a wide variety of fee practices, Phyllis C. Borzi, assistant secretary of labor for the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration said in an email statement.

“In fact, several exemptions have long been in existence which allow brokers to receive commissions in connection with mutual funds, stocks and insurance products,” Borzi said. “The agency will carefully craft new or amended exemptions that can best preserve beneficial fee practices.”

All while protecting investors from abusive sales practices and conflicting advice.


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