President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday that directed the Treasury Secretary to review and restructure financial regulations. He also signed a memorandum instructing the Department of Labor to delay the implementation of a rule extending fiduciary responsibility to retirement advisors.
The Department of Labor's fiduciary rule was scheduled to be implemented starting April 10, and today's memorandum delayed its implementation by 180 days. The regulation, which is a piece of Obama's legacy Trump would like to repeal, requires retirement advisors to act in the best interests of their clients. It is meant to protect retirees' assets and ensure advisors are focused on doing what's best for the client instead of seeking profits by selling retirement products.
According to the Wall Street Journal, White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said the Trump administration is looking to overhaul Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well and replace the current head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a product of Dodd-Frank. He said, “Personnel is policy,” indicating that the administration will influence the direction of the agency in this way. Today's executive order also paves the way for more orders affecting the Financial Stability Oversight Council, he said.
Trump had promised to dismantle Dodd-Frank while he was campaigning last year and recently called it a "disaster." Last year in an interview with Reuters he said, "Dodd-Frank has made it impossible for bankers to function. It makes it very hard for bankers to loan money for people to create jobs, for people with businesses to create jobs. And that has to stop." Earlier this week he signed an executive order to cut small-business regulations.
Jamie Hopkins, Co-Director of the Retirement Income Program at the American College of Financial Services, told Investopedia, "We're left with a lot of uncertainty here." Trump ran on a message of activism, and today's action is really just extending the status quo. But the good intents of the fiduciary rule may have already had an effect. "Some businesses were set up with conflicts of interest," like having sales people on the same team with advisors. But in anticipation of the rule, "many financial services organizations got rid of their potential conflicts to prepare for compliance" to the rule.
According to Hopkins, the rule would have been best observed "if it could have been implemented for just one day" so that companies would restructure their businesses to become more consumer friendly, but they wouldn't have to worry about lawsuits and compliance expenditures.
Yesterday House Representatives voted to kill an SEC rule that was created according to a provision in the Dodd-Frank Act.