Last month, the Obama Department of Labor released the final version of the fiduciary rule, a regulation spanning more than a thousand pages that will curtail the ability of financial advisors to give advice to IRA and 401(k) holders.
Supporters of the rule claim it is necessary to ensure savers receive the best possible advice, however the final product is so complex and burdensome that millions will inevitably be locked out from receiving the guidance they need. Through this regulation, the federal government is essentially moving to exert close control over the retirement saving decisions of Americans across the country.
In response to this encroachment, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to block this new rule, led by Congressmen Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), by Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).
Now, the resolution goes to the Senate, where it should be swiftly taken up for a vote. While President Obama has vowed to veto the resolution, it is imperative that Congress is put on the record opposing this crushing new regulation.
Under the rule, expert investment advisors will have to prove they are acting in the “best interest” of their client. While this sounds reasonable, economists warn the standard appears to be “a vague open- ended obligation with seemingly no bounds.”
As a result, the regulatory costs of complying with the new, thousand page rule will be immense for business. While large investment firms will have the economies of scale, smaller advisors will struggle to comply. The impact of increased compliance costs will disproportionately fall on low and middle income families who may lose their broker of choice or be priced out of the market entirely.
In fact, Oliver Wyman Consulting estimated that the rule will result in 7 million IRA holders being priced out of investment advice and between 300,000 and 400,000 fewer IRAs will be opened every year as a result of the rule. All told, center-left economists Robert Litan and Hal Singer found that this regulation could mean more than $80 billion in lost savings.
Rather than impose strict new regulations, Congress and the Obama administration should work to implement reforms that protect the ability of millions of American families and savers to seek sound financial advice toward their retirement savings.
One proposal, the “Retail Investor Protection Act,” introduced by Rep. Wagner would do exactly this by directing the Securities and Exchange Commission – the agency that rightly has jurisdiction over this issue – to construct a rule in consultation with Congress that ensures savers and advisors are both protected. This legislation has even passed the House twice with bipartisan support in 2013 and 2015.
Undoubtedly, the fiduciary rule will make saving for retirement worse, not better. The Senate ought to swiftly take up the House passed resolution and show their commitment to safeguarding important investment advice for millions of Americans.