After years of debate and refinement, a Department of Labor ruling was signed last year and ready to go for April 1st. This ruling was to expand the “investment advice fiduciary” definition under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) – the rules governing all retirement plans and the investment advisors to the plans. On February 3, 2017, President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of Labor to examine the Fiduciary Duty Rule, delaying the implementation.
The delay is set to be released as of June 9th. At least that is how it looks today.
What does the ruling mean to you? This ruling would mean that all retirement advisors would have to act by Impartial Conducts Standards, which is: providing best interests advice, for reasonable compensation, and make no misleading statements.
I hear you…What do you mean? They are not acting on my behalf now? Maybe. Depending who is advising you. Here is the low-down:
· Registered investment advisors regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission or state securities regulators are already held to a fiduciary standard of conduct under which they must act in their clients' best interests.
· Securities brokers, however, are regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority under a "suitability" standard. The investments they recommend must be suitable for investors, but they are not required by law to act in their clients' best interests.
· Certified Financial Planners, CFPtm have been required to maintain this fiduciary standard since 2007.
So because every advisor follows different rules, depending who you talk to, the regulation is either long-overdue or going to cause all sorts of expenses and problems. Proponents of the fiduciary rule believe it is needed to protect retirement savers from conflicted advice and reign in high commissions and kickbacks in sales of retirement products. The naysayers say the problems will include more expensive litigation and will limit retirement options.
Knowing who your investment advisor works for and what standards they follow is critical. And knowing that as the ruling stands, this fiduciary standard requirement will only apply to retirement advising. Your money outside of retirement may still be advised by the suitability standard. This leaves you needing to ask lots of questions of your advisor so that you know not only the investment, the fees and the rules they follow.
If you like the small print and want to read here : http://webapps.dol.gov/FederalRegister/PdfDisplay.aspx?DocId=28806
What is the bottom line on Fiduciary Responsibility? Whatever company the professional represents, you want to be sure they have your best interests in mind. If the advisor has fiduciary responsibility legally, there will be no conflict of interest when working with you.
Ask the question. Maybe even get the answer in writing to protect yourself and your financial interests no matter how many times the ruling gets delayed. You want to know that the advice you are getting is in the “best interest” for you.