What Fiduciary Opponents Really Want

Knut A. RostadAdvisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

A decade ago, fiduciary opponents sought to weaken fiduciary advice. SIFMA's July 2011 comment letter is a good example. But fiduciary advisors fought it tooth and nail.

Today, fiduciary opponents have embraced a more ambitious objective – to eliminate fiduciary advice. They are not seeking this legislatively, but in interpreting rulemaking.

They want to make fiduciary meaningless through language that is unclear and ambiguous or redefines words and concepts to serve special interests. The testimony of fiduciary opponents on the proposed DOL Retirement Security Rule are clear evidence.

On December 12, 19 groups or interested individuals testified on the DOL’s proposed Retirement Security Rule, including my organization, the Fiduciary Institute. Eight of those groups opposed the rule.

My team conducted word searches of the testimony to better understand what rule opponents support. We first searched for the word conflict (or conflicts or conflicted), because avoiding or eliminating conflicts of interest is central to fiduciary advice.

Carlo V. di Florio, director of the SEC Office of Compliance, Inspections and Examinations, spoke in 2012 of the “mortal threat” of conflicts of interest.