A new federal rule aimed at protecting investors from self-serving advice from brokers and other advisers kicks in Friday.
The so-called “fiduciary” rule was finalized during the Obama administration. It requires retirement investment advisers — the folks telling you what you should do with your 401k or annuities — to suggest investments that are best for you, regardless of what fees or commissions the adviser might miss out on.
But don’t let your guard down just yet when someone pitches that “can’t lose” investment fund or other product with high fees or onerous restrictions.
As long as forms are making progress toward meeting the rule’s requirements, the U.S. Labor Department said in a bulletin, it doesn’t plan to enforce the new fiduciary rule before January 1, 2018.
By then, the rule might be gone or de-fanged. It’s one of the Obama-era regulations that President Donald Trump has in his cross-hairs for elimination.
The “soft launch” approach comes after Trump signed a memorandum in February directing the Labor Department to re-examine the rule to see whether it harms consumers’ ability to get the investment advice they need.
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta recently said he concluded that he has to let the rule go into force on June 9 out of “respect for the rule of law.” But he said the agency will continue looking at the rule during its phased implementation to see if it needs to be changed.
Critics of the fiduciary rule worry that it will bring more regulatory costs and lawsuits for the investment industry, causing investment firms to drop customers with smaller accounts.
But advocates worry about the DOL’s less aggressive enforcement policy.
“I remain disappointed that the financial industry is fighting a rule that simply requires them to act in the investor’s best interest,” said Robert Port, an Atlanta lawyer with Gaslowitz Frankel who represents people in disputes with investment advisers.
“I would hope that during this interim period, that firms would use their best efforts to comply,” he said.
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