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Piwowar Letter Lays Out Concerns with Fiduciary Rule; Firms Request Compliance Date Delay

SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar submitted a response to the DOL’s request for public input on the embattled Fiduciary Rule, stating three major concerns. Piwowar contended that the Fiduciary Rule discounts the effectiveness of disclosure-based remedies to conflicts of interest in the financial services industry. “Rather than dismiss out of hand the role of disclosure in policing conflicts of interest, I would strongly encourage the Department to redouble its efforts to work with the Commission and its expert staff, who may bring to bear our decades of experience in enforcing multiple disclosure-based regimes,” Piwowar wrote. He also asserted that the rule fails to distinguish between the securities selling activities of broker-dealers and their regulatory regime and the advice activities in which regulated investment advisers engage and noted that the existing regulatory regimes provide “effective oversight of the specific activities they were designed to address.” Finally, Piwowar contended that the Fiduciary Rule will have a dramatic impact on the financial services industry as a whole and will be disruptive of the broker-client relationship in general. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the rise in fee-based assets at large brokerage firms and increase in assets in self-directed accounts at discount firms is at least partly attributable to the Fiduciary Rule. Although the shift has been going on for years, the WSJ reported that the shift has accelerated since the DOL released the Fiduciary Rule last year. According to the WSJ report, fee-based accounts are favored under the Fiduciary Rule because they do not incentivize brokers to promote particular products based on commissions, and self-directed brokerage accounts allow investors who trade infrequently to minimize costs. Meanwhile, political opponents of the rule continue efforts to repeal it as requests to delay the compliance date flood into the DOL.