DOL Information Filing Fans Fiduciary Flare-Up

It may be grasping at straws, but two U.S. Senators have drawn an unfavorable connection between a planned research initiative by the Labor Department and the agency’s appreciation for the impact of its pending fiduciary rule.

“The Labor Department’s request suggests it is blindly moving forward with policy that has the potential to cut off access to affordable retirement advice for millions of Americans and their families,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee said in a statement, according to Investment News.

His comments came in response to a recent information collection request from the Labor Department. As part of the request, the Labor Department acknowledged that, “Relatively little is known about how people make planning and financial decisions before and during retirement.”

Also weighing in on the topic was Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who said in a statement that, “It is appalling that, by its own admission, the Department of Labor does not know enough about how individuals and families make retirement decisions, yet the Obama administration is willing to move forward with the implementation of fiduciary rulemaking,” according to Investment News. Last month Isakson introduced the Affordable Retirement Advice Protection Act, which would require a vote by Congress before any final rule by the Obama administration goes into effect.

The Labor Department’s request for comment on its information collection request outlined plans for a multi-year study that would track tens of thousands of U.S. households, gathering data about contributions to retirement accounts, investment allocations, planning strategies and financial advice received.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that President Obama was meeting with financial regulators who are finishing new rules to manage financial markets. According to the report, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the meeting participants planned to discuss efforts to implement consumer financial protections and combat abusive practices by the financial industry that predated the 2008 financial crisis.

That meeting served as something of an inspiration for the latest critique of the fiduciary proposal by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who in a blog post by his Deputy Communications Director said that the rule was “Obamacare for financial planning,” in that it “requires an enormous amount of paperwork and makes recordkeeping more expensive. Like Obamacare, it will result in higher costs and fewer options for small businesses trying to get up and running.” Last week the Speaker’s blog also offered up a special definition of the fiduciary rule.

Politico reports that Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez will testify at a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing next week on the Labor Department’s requested budget for 2017.

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