Category: Registered Investment Advisers
New Rule, Old Rule: What Should Advisers Do Now?
This is my 40th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.
Now that it seems clear that the applicability date of the new fiduciary regulation will be delayed, many advisers (including broker-dealers and RIA firms) may heave a sigh of relief. However, while some relief is justified, that does not mean that their services are not governed, in many cases, by the “old” fiduciary regulation. (By “old” rule, I refer to the DOL regulation that defines fiduciary advice and that has been in effect for decades.) With all the attention that has been devoted to fiduciary status and prohibited transactions, it is possible, perhaps even probable, that the … Read More »
SEC Examinations of RIAs and Broker-Dealers under the ReTIRE Initiative
This is my 38th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions.
As explained in my last post (Angles #37), the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) issued a National Exam Program Risk Alert concerning examinations about services offered by RIAs and broker-dealers to investors with retirement accounts. One of the areas specifically identified for those examinations is “Reasonable Basis for Recommendations.” The OCIE described that issue as:
“Registrants have important obligations under the federal securities laws and SRO rules (with respect to broker-dealers) when making recommendations or providing investment advice. To the extent applicable and required, the staff will assess the actions of registrants and their representatives for consistency with these … Read More »
A Seminar Can Be a Fiduciary Act
This is my 34th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions.
Last week, the DOL issued its second set of FAQs on the fiduciary rule and conflict of interest exemptions. For the most part, the DOL’s answers were consistent with the industry’s understanding of the rules. However, a few were particularly interesting. For example, Question 17 asked:
Q17. Would a free dinner seminar offered by an investment adviser as a means of marketing services or investments to a group of retirees or individuals approaching retirement be a widely attended speech or conference within the meaning of the general communications provision of the Rule?
Before giving you the answer, let me explain the significance of the question. If … Read More »
Discretionary Management, Rollovers and BICE
This is my 33rd article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions.
Most broker-dealers and RIA firms are familiar with the provisions of the Best Interest Contract Exemption (BICE) and with the fact that, as a general rule, BICE applies only to non-discretionary investment advice. But, that isn’t the end of the story. There are some situations in which discretionary management can be used for recommendations that are covered by BICE. For example, if a representative of a broker dealer or an RIA prudently recommends a distribution and IRA rollover (satisfying the Level Fee Fiduciary conditions), the IRA may be invested using discretionary investment manager. (Note, though, that the discretionary investment management must be provided by a “pure” Level Fee … Read More »
One of the consequences of the presidential election is that the future of the fiduciary rule (and the exemptions) is uncertain. What does that mean to advisers . . . regardless of whether they are representatives of RIAs or broker-dealers, or for that matter, if they are independent insurance agents?
The answer is that nobody knows. However, this article outlines the most likely alternatives. Those are:
The rule will be killed by regulation or legislation.
The rule will be implemented “as is.”
The rule and the exemptions will be modified.
Only the second alternative (the “as is” option) could realistically be implemented by the current deadline of April 10. But, that’s the alternative that is, in my opinion, the least likely to happen. While it is low probability, it is high risk in the sense that broker-dealers and RIAs must be in compliance by April … Read More »
The Definition of Compensation
This is my twenty-seventh article about interesting observations concerning the fiduciary rule and exemptions.
As the readers of these articles know, one impact of the new fiduciary rule is that compensation paid to Financial Institutions and advisers must be reasonable. Reasonable, in turn, is a function of a transparent and competitive marketplace. However, where the competitive market does not work (for example, where compensation is not transparent), customary compensation may not be reasonable.
But, this article is not about reasonable compensation. Instead, the question is, what is “compensation?”
The Department of Labor partially answered that question in the fiduciary regulation:
“The term ‘fee or other compensation, direct or indirect’ means . . . any explicit fee or compensation for the advice received by the person (or by an affiliate) from any source, and any other fee or compensation received … Read More »
The Meaning of Differential Compensation Based on Neutral Factors
This is my twenty-fourth article covering interesting observations about the fiduciary rule and exemptions.
The DOL’s fiduciary “package” consists of a regulation that expands the definition of advice and exemptions, or exceptions, from the prohibited transaction (PT) rules. If a recommendation by a fiduciary adviser does not constitute a PT (e.g., does not affect the adviser’s compensation, or that of an affiliate, and does not cause a payment from a third party), no exemption is needed. However, if the fiduciary recommendation causes a PT, an exemption must be used – and most often that will be BICE – the Best Interest Contract Exemption. Therein lies the rub . . . the compensation of the financial institution (e.g., the broker-dealer) and the adviser are regulated by BICE.
Under BICE, the compensation of broker-dealers can be … Read More »
This is my twenty-third article about interesting observations concerning the fiduciary rule and exemptions.
When the definition of fiduciary advice is expanded on April 10, 2017, the investment and insurance recommendations of a much larger group of advisers will be classified as fiduciary advice and will, as a result, increase the focus on financial conflicts of interest (which ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code refer to as “prohibited transactions,” or PTs). My suspicion is that, for most ERISA retirement plans, there will not be a great impact on advisers—because, to a large degree, advisers to retirement plans already are acknowledged fiduciaries. (To be fair, though, there will be some impact . . . particularly on smaller plans, where some insurance companies and broker-dealers have, in the past, taken the position that their advisers are not fiduciaries. Nonetheless, based on my recent … Read More »
While you have probably read articles that summarize the DOL’s final fiduciary rule and exemptions—and perhaps even articles that discuss specific aspects of the rules, there are a number of interesting observations “hidden” in the preambles to the regulation and exemptions.
In many cases, those comments are so focused on limited issues or complex that they are beyond the scope of the initial articles, speeches and webcasts. As a result, I will be writing several articles about those “nuggets.” This is the first of those articles.
In the preamble to the Best Interest Contract Exemption (BICE), the DOL noted that a fiduciary adviser and his or her financial institution (e.g., RIA firm or broker-dealer) could contractually limit the duty to monitor. But then the DOL went on to say:
“Further, when determining the extent of the monitoring to be provided, as disclosed in … Read More »
As I work with broker-dealers and RIA firms, certain patterns are developing in their efforts to satisfy the requirements of the DOL’s fiduciary rule and the exemptions.
This article looks at some of those “solutions” and comments on the areas where there is some agreement . . . or at least a majority opinion.
The DOL’s rule will, when finalized, regulate investment advice to plans and participants, investment advice to IRAs, and recommendations about distributions from plans and IRAs.
In this post, I look at the decision being made about advice to plans.
Interestingly, it appears that the changes will impact plans much less than IRAs and rollovers. The plan solutions fall into two categories. The first is that RIAs and broker-dealers will provide level-fee investment advice to plans. In some of those cases, a broker-dealer may need to act under its RIA registration. … Read More »