President Trump Seeks to Amend Dodd-Frank, End Fiduciary Rule

On Friday, President Trump issued two executive orders intended to spur financial regulatory reform that could impact Big “I” members.

The first order outlined six core principles for regulating the U.S. financial system and directed the Treasury Secretary to review existing laws and regulations to ensure consistency with the principles. Although the order did not explicitly name any laws or regulations, it is meant to take aim at the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. However, the order serves mostly a symbolic purpose, since congressional action is required to make changes to Dodd-Frank.

Congress is already working on the “Financial CHOICE Act,” spearheaded by House of Representatives Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). The legislation is expected to be introduced and considered soon.

Of note to Big “I” members, a previous version of the “CHOICE Act” sought to restructure the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) into the Office of the Independent Insurance Advocate (IIA). The Big “I” supports restricting or eliminating the FIO and is concerned that the proposed IIA could eventually serve as a springboard for a day-to-day federal regulator in the future. The new version of the “CHOICE Act” may contain similar language, and the Big “I” will continue working with Congress to address this issue.

The second order directed the Department of Labor (DOL) to review, and potentially rescind, the Fiduciary Rule. The Fiduciary Rule is a federal regulation that tightens conflict of interest rules under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and requires insurance agents and brokers who give guidance about certain retirement investments to adhere to a heightened fiduciary standard of care, rather than a suitability standard.

Because the regulation was finalized in April 2016, the President cannot unilaterally withdraw or amend the rule without additional procedures. Any changes to the Fiduciary Rule must follow the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires a defined process to remove a regulation from the books.

While the President cannot rescind or amend the rule on his own, he can direct the DOL on policy related to the rule. Therefore, the executive order directs the DOL to review the rule to “determine whether it may adversely affect the ability of Americans to gain access to retirement information and financial advice.” If the DOL concludes that the rule will adversely impact retirement savers, the order calls for the DOL to publish a notice to rescind or amend the rule as needed.

With implementation of the rule set to begin on April 10, 2017, the DOL will likely file notice to delay implementation of the rule while the review is ongoing. A court decision regarding the legality of the rule is also expected soon.

In the meantime, Big “I” members should check with any financial institutions they work with regarding potential compliance with the rule until the DOL or the courts take formal action to delay or reverse it.

Jennifer Webb is Big “I” federal government affairs counsel.