The battle over a rule proposed by the Department of Labor, which would require retirement plan advisors to be fiduciaries to plan participants, has descended to a new low. The securities industry lobby has been earning its keep, persuading some members of Congress that putting the interest of plan participants first is actually a bad idea. No mean feat.
The ruling's goal, protecting retirement savers from high fees and poor performance, is both admirable and desperately needed. However, the firms actually responsible for investing 401(k) assets -- the financial services industry -- should be accountable for the performance of their investment products, not employers.
President after president has promised that the U.S. will compel foreign nations to meet labor standards established in free-trade agreements. They haven't. They probably can't. And American workers and politicians should stop buying it. The U.S. can sign trade agreements with countries after they stop murdering trade unionists and countenancing child labor.
This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear arguments on whether the Labor Department has the authority to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to workers who provide home care assistance to elders and people with disabilities. This federal court case affects all of us.
An explosive new blog post at AdvisorHub purports to quote a high-ranking Morgan Stanley executive deriding the notion that Wall Street would ever allow a real fiduciary standard to be applied to its business. The arrogant assumption that Wall Street runs Washington and the patent disregard for investor well-being give the alleged emails a convincing ring.
We're not suggesting that everyone who gives retirement investment advice is taking advantage of their clients, since many advisers do act in their client's best interest. But, because the law does not require them to do so, far too many do not. That's why the President's recent action is so important.
In addition to shedding crocodile tears over the potential harm to middle-income savers if brokers have to start acting in their customers' best interests, financial services firms and their lobbyists have increasingly voiced their outrage that the Department of Labor believes it has a role to play in regulating retirement advice.
Ever since the Department of Labor proposed several years ago to close regulatory loopholes that allow financial firms to offer conflicted retirement advice without having to act in the best interests of the retirement savers who rely on that advice, financial services firms have been nearly apoplectic in their opposition.