Saturday, February 5, 2011


The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association hit the Department of Labor with a letter complaining that a proposed rule to redefine the term fiduciary could interfere with investors’ ability to save for retirement.

The letter comes after the DOL’s October proposal to redefine when an investment advisor is considered a fiduciary. The proposed rule would mark a shift from the current standard set by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). If put in place, the rule would also change how retirement plans and individual retirement accounts access products and services.

That change could interfere with individual investors’ retirement plans, SIFMA argued in its letter sent on Wednesday, as financial institutions will charge more to plan participants and IRA account holders.

If the DOL does not reconsider the proposed rule, SIFMA recommends that the organization evaluate IRAs separately to see if they need a separate fiduciary standard.

SIFMA also urged the DOL to work more closely with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission to make sure that a new fiduciary standard of care for brokers and investment advisors could work across the industry. Recently, the SEC recommended that regulators create a single, uniform fiduciary standard for brokers and investment advisers. The SEC’s 208-page study that emerged from the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation urges that a uniform fiduciary standard that puts the clients’ best interest first be adopted for both investment advisers who now adhere to it and broker-dealers who often rely on the so-called suitability standard.

SIFMA also urged the DOL to consider how the proposed rule could limit activity from the capital markets. More costs to large plans could interfere with their ability to participate in swaps, prime brokerage assets, alternatives investing and futures execution. Additional costs could also limit investment choice at small plans and IRAs, SIFMA argued.

“In the midst of other regulatory initiatives in this area, we ask the Department to reconsider this proposal and work with other regulators to ensure regulatory consistency,” Tim Ryan, SIFMA's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

SIFMA requested the chance to testify before the DOL about the proposal at the department’s scheduled hearing on March 1 and 2.

SIFMA’s letter comes as the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards also sent its own letter to the DOL on Wednesday. In that letter, the CFP Board asked for the DOL to expand the term fiduciary under ERISA to better protect plans and their investors from conflicts of interest. The letter also called for the DOL to have no opt out provision for advisors, which would limit its adverse interests exception.

The CFP Board also said it supports the DOL’s proposal to define investment advice to include recommendations on plan distributions.

Lorie Konish
February 4, 2011 

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