​Fiduciary Rule/Conflict of Interest Rule

The fiduciary rule, also known as the conflict of interest rule, was released by the Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (DOL EBSA) during the Obama Administration. Its premise: financial and investment advisers should act solely in the best interest of the individual when giving advice or selling products and services. Its goal: to protect individuals' financial and retirement security.

The rule has had a long history filled with ups, downs and mixed support. Those opposed to the rule—often those in the financial services industry—say the rule will hurt the ability of individuals to receive financial advice, and would add compliance complexity and costs for their firms. In 2018, a legal decision led to the demise of the DOL's fiduciary rule. The focus has since shifted to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), which has also proposed rules on this issue.   

Updates

  • On June 21, 2018, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit made effective its decision to vacate the fiduciary rule. DOL let the deadline pass without petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the case and has not issued any guidance on rules that now apply. 
  • On May 22, 2018, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied the motion made by three state attorneys general to reconsider their May 2 decision.
  • On May 9,  2018, the SEC released its proposed Best Interest Regulation to establish a standard of conduct for broker-dealers when making a recommendation of any securities transaction or investment strategy involving securities to a retail customer. The proposed standard would require broker-dealers to act in the best interest of the retail customer. Public comments on the proposed rule may be submitted through August 7, 2018. 
  • On May 2, 2018, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied the motions of AARP and three state attorneys general to intervene in U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. DOL, derailing hopes that the full Fifth Circuit panel of judges would review its earlier panel decision striking down the fiduciary rule. 
  • On the same day, AARP and the state attorneys general of New York, Oregon and California asked the court for permission to rehear the case in front of the full panel of 17 judges. The original ruling was made by three judges and resulted in a 2-1 split. 
  • On April 18, 2018, SEC voted to propose rules and interpretations to enhance the quality and transparency of investors’ relationships with investment advisers and broker-dealers while preserving access to a variety of types of advice relationships and investment products.
  • On March 19, 2018, DOL announced it will not enforce the fiduciary rule “pending further review.”   
  • On March 15, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled to vacate the DOL's fiduciary rule and related applicable exemptions. This decision differs with the decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
  • On November 29, 2017, DOL officially delayed the full implementation of the Best Interest Contract Exemption and other provisions of the rule and extended the transition period for review to July 1, 2019.
  • On October 27, 2017, the Treasury Department released a report saying they support the DOL reexamination of the fiduciary rule​​ and outlining the potential harm caused by the rule.​​​
  • On August 31, 2017, DOL proposed a delay in the full implementation of the ​Best Interest ​Contract Exemption as well as other provisions of the rule.​ These provisions were being reviewed during a transition period scheduled to end on January 1, 2018. This proposal would extend the transition period to July 1, 2019.​​ The DOL also released Field Assistance Bulletin ​2017-03 providing information on enforcement during the transition period.
  • On August 4, 2017, EBSA released FAQs on​​ a fiduciary status issue and whether​ recommendations to contribute to a plan or to change plan design to increase participant contributions constitute​ investment advice. ​​
  • ​On June 30​, 2017, EBSA​ released a request for information​, ​seeking pu​blic input on possible changes to the rule and possible additional exemptions.   ​​
  • On June 9, 2017, ​​parts of the fiduciary rule are ​​implemented
  • On June 1, 2017, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chair issued a public statement​ opening a comment period to find out how the rule will impact retail investors and others.  ​
  • On May 22, 2017 the new Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced​ there​ is no legal basis to further delay the rule and it will become applicable on June 9, 2017. ​​​
  • Also on May 22, 2017, EBSA announced in Field Assistance Bulletin 2017-02​  that during the phased implementation period ending on January 1, 2018, the DOL will not pursue claims against fiduciaries who are working diligently and in good faith to comply with the fiduciary duty rule and exemptions.​ In addition, EBSA ​released FAQs related to the transition period for the rule.
  • ​On April 4, 2017, the DOL EBSA issued a final rule​ delaying the fiduciary rule. 
  • On February 3, 2017, President Trump issued a memo​ directing the DOL EBSA to examine the rule to determine whether it may adversely affect an individual's ability to gain access to retirement information and financial advice.​​ 

Background/Explanation of (Original) Final Rule

Legal Challenges

State Actions