WASHINGTON | October 5, 2017
Obama's fiduciary rule is already hurting small savers. Here's how to roll it back
By Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)
Saving for retirement is a difficult challenge for Americans across the country. By one estimate, there are nearly 40 million working families who haven't saved a dime for retirement. It's clear the last thing Washington should do is create new barriers to the financial security Americans need when they retire.
That's why it's so mind-boggling that the Obama administration put in place a so-called fiduciary rule that makes it harder for people to build a secure retirement.
We've always agreed that retirement advisers should act in good faith; we've been saying that from the start. But a rule requiring retirement advisers to serve their clients' best interests is completely pointless if it means many Americans won't have access to retirement advice at all.
For years, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has led the fight against this fundamentally flawed rule. We weren't the only ones who raised concerns. In fact, nearly 100 House Democrats cautioned the Obama administration against finalizing a rule that would "have a disproportionate impact on lower- and middle-income communities."
Sadly, that's precisely what the previous administration settled on. And you don't have to just take our word for it. Even former President Barack Obama's own secretary of treasury, Jack Lew, recently acknowledged the rule will lead to harmful consequences, including "pricing smaller investors out of the financial advice market."
Indeed, according to the American Action Forum, the rule could increase costs on retirement savers by $46.6 billion. Those who can least afford it will be hit the hardest. Many working families will soon find they can no longer afford personal retirement advice, and small businesses will face new obstacles as they try to set up retirement plans for their employees.
We're seeing these predictions come to fruition. Several firms have already dropped the very types of services those with limited savings are more likely to rely on, and it's only a matter of time before things get worse.
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report notes that 71 percent of advisors surveyed will stop providing advice to some of their clients with small account balances. Perhaps most concerning, the report found that up to 7 million retirement savers may lose access to retirement advice altogether.
For these very reasons, we wish the rule had been scrapped altogether. But from Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta's perspective, his hands were tied. That makes it even more compelling to develop a legislative solution.
To his credit, the secretary also noted that "America was founded on the belief that people should be trusted to govern themselves … Voters elect their representatives to Washington." We agree. As the People's representatives, we have a duty to fix the fiduciary mess.
Our committee recently advanced the Affordable Retirement Advice for Savers Act, which will repeal the fiduciary rule and preserve access to affordable retirement advice. It also amends federal law to require retirement advisers to act in the best interests of their clients. Legislation — not 1,000 pages of red tape — is the right way to address an issue with such a widespread impact.
This legislation proves we can hold financial advisers accountable without causing millions of Americans to lose access to affordable retirement advice. It's our hope that members of both parties will do the right thing by joining together and sending H.R. 2823 to President Trump's desk. The American people are depending on us to do just that.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. (@virginiafoxx), is chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. (@DrPhilRoe), a member of that same committee, also chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
To read the full op-ed in the Washington Examiner, click here.