SURVEY SAYS: Is the Fiduciary Definition Re-Proposal a Good Idea?

September 22, 2011 ( - On Monday the Employee Benefit Security Administration said it would “re-propose” its expanded fiduciary definition proposal.


Now, of course, at this point we don’t know what that re-proposal will look like (though EBSA said it anticipates it will clarify that fiduciary advice is limited to individualized advice directed to specific parties, respond to concerns about the application of the regulation to routine appraisals and clarifying the limits of the rule’s application to arm’s length commercial transactions, such as swap transactions, among other things). 

This week, I asked readers what they thought of the delay.

A plurality (38.5%) said it was a good thing, though nearly as many (34.1%) thought it was a thing of “mixed consequence.” 

Just 3.3% thought it was a “bad” thing, while 18.7% saw it as a thing of “no real consequence at all.”

However, the remaining roughly 6% opted for “other” – and nearly all of those were in the “it depends what the re-proposal looks like” camp (the rest were primarily in the “not sure” category)


Among this week’s verbatim comments were the following:

Since the objective always seems to be to find fault with the fiduciary, clarity (and maybe some reality) is vital to the judgment procedure.

So what was wrong with previous definition?

Another example of the government trying to "protect" people by controlling industry rather than letting the marketplace control the industry

It's good that a (hopefully) more reasonable standard will prevail; it's bad that so much time and anxiety will continue to be chewed up by this issue.

No matter how much "clarification", the more words and examples it uses, the more there will be exceptions to the "rule".

People keep saying that making brokers act as fiduciaries will cause investors to be unable to have small IRAs. They seem to have forgotten the portion of the market that is already investing in IRAs without the help of a broker or other financial advisor. Generally the people who are using an advisor are the ones most likely to need that fiduciary protection.


Unfortunately, the DOL simply didn't comprehend how wide a net they were casting with something that would be either unenforceable, or so wide a net that everyone would be a fiduciary - including Nevin since his editorials may have been relied upon.  Politically speaking, Phyllis Borzi has no choice.

One reader, obviously picking up today’s other survey on buzzwords, offered the following assessment; “To be honest delays and proposals seem to be a core competency of Government because there is no 360o thinking that can lead to alignment and eventually a solution; so we have a lack of transparency or full disclosure going forward because there is no thinking outside the box at the end of the day, meaning no one is on the same page and no one is taking care of accountability management.  Maybe those in charge should be made into redeployed people?  "Works for me!"

When a federal regulatory agency does not do something it is generally a good thing..

Like the thousand's of pages of health care reform, we'll sum it up with thousand's of pages of clarification.

Hurry up and wait.  Wait some more.  Wait more.  Finally finals are out, but the regs need clarified.  Wait again.  Wait some more.  Wait more.  Are we seeing a pattern here?



But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said, “Delaying something is ALWAYS a good thing!”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!

You can read more about the re-proposal HERE.

You can read some of the response from the retirement industry on the decision HERE.