WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 2, 2016
For hardworking men and women, retirement should be something to look forward to. Unfortunately, for many individuals, a comfortable, secure retirement seems unattainable. That’s why it’s important that we, as policymakers, are doing what we can to help Americans build a secure retirement. Part of that effort is ensuring they have the tools they need to plan for the future. For years, that’s been our goal, and that’s exactly why we are here today.
When the Department of Labor first proposed changes to the rules governing retirement advice, we had concerns. We completely agreed – and still do – that financial advisors should be required to act in their clients’ best interests. Instead, our concerns were focused on the details of the department’s proposal.
It became clear that rather than help individuals obtain high-quality retirement advice, the proposal would make retirement planning harder for those most in need of assistance. So we, along with a number of our Democratic colleagues, called for the department to rethink its proposal. We held hearings and wrote letters, and eventually, the department decided to go back to the drawing board. Unfortunately, when they released their revised proposal last year, it was similarly flawed.
Once again, it became clear the department’s approach would make retirement advice unaffordable or inaccessible for low- and middle-income families. Once again, we heard from small business owners who explained how they will be unable to offer their employees retirement plans if the department’s rule goes into effect. And once again, we weren’t alone in our concerns.
Much like with the department’s first proposal, our Democratic colleagues in both the House and the Senate spoke out against the rule. In fact, nearly 100 House Democrats – including members of this committee – wrote to Secretary of Perez about concerns they were hearing, concerns that the proposal could limit the ability of certain individuals to access retirement advice. Those House Democrats also urged the department to seek a balanced approach that protects individuals while still protecting access to retirement investment advice for all Americans.
That’s exactly the approach we took in developing the two proposals we’re considering today. With the administration clearly intent on pushing forward a flawed proposal, I – along with several colleagues from both sides of the aisle – began working to come up with a legislative solution. We developed a set of principles to guide that effort, and after much work and collaboration, we put forward these two bills.
Some say we should wait until the department finalizes its proposal. In other words, we should wait until it’s too late. Instead, we drafted a bill that gives the administration a chance to get it right. If they release a responsible rule, Congress will approve the plan, and it will go into effect. If not, our bipartisan alternative will do what the department couldn’t.
These proposals will strengthen retirement planning by requiring financial advisors to look out for their clients’ best interests. They will enhance transparency and accountability with several clear, simple, and relevant disclosure requirements. And they will protect access to high-quality, affordable retirement advice for all workers, retirees, and small business owners. I’m confident our bipartisan solution will ensure more Americans are able to successfully plan for their futures and, as a result, are able to look forward to their hard-earned retirement.
The changes in the proposed substitute amendment make a number of technical and clarifying changes to the original bill. I urge my colleagues to support the substitute, as well as the underlying bill, and I yield back the balance of my time.