White House Opposes Bill to Kill Fiduciary Rule

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By Sean Forbes

Sept. 25 — The White House sharply criticized a bill that would put a stop to the Department of Labor's proposed fiduciary rule as a House committee officially announced the date it would mark up the legislation.

The Retail Investor Protection Act (H.R. 1090), sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), would require the DOL to halt work on its proposal (RIN 1210-AB32) while waiting for the Securities and Exchange Commission to proceed with its own fiduciary rulemaking. The House Financial Services Committee said it will mark up the legislation Sept. 30.

“As the President has said, retirement advisers should be required to put their clients’ best interest first, and that’s exactly what the proposed rule would do,” Jennifer Friedman, a White House spokeswoman, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail Sept. 25. “Blocking the proposed rule would allow for the status quo to continue, and conflicted advice would continue to cause hard-working American families to lose $17 billion of their retirement savings per year. That is unacceptable, and the Administration has made very clear that we will strongly oppose any attempts to block this proposed rule that protects Americans saving” for retirement.

The fight between the White House and Congress is among the latest developments showing that the battle over the DOL's proposal—also called the conflict-of-interest rule—continues to flame hotter.

On the same day as the markup, the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the proposal that promises to be unfriendly, as panel Chairman Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) has been a vocal critic of the department's work.

And in a letter to the DOL submitted Sept. 24, the department's comment period deadline on the proposal, more than half of the House's Democrats made multiple recommendations on the rule, including one to convene a group of financial industry groups and consumer advocacy groups to help finalize it.

As the White House was defending the proposed rule Sept. 25, the America Council of Life Insurers said the DOL should go back to square one and redraft it. “ACLI strongly urges the department to return to the drawing board and re-propose its regulation so that it is transparent, workable and does not trigger harmful, unintended consequences for America’s savers,” the organization said.

The heat is even turning up on TV: ACLI is a member of SecureFamily.org, a coalition of organizations that has been running TV spots against the rule. The ACLI also plans to submit comments to the Oversight Subcommittee for the hearing, said Whit Cornman, ACLI's director of media relations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sean Forbes in Washington at sforbes@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Kushin at pkushin@bna.com