The Department of Labor denied a request for an extension of a public comment period for its controversial fiduciary rule package. A public hearing will be held Dec. 12-13 in Washington, D.C.
Public comments remain due by Jan. 2. In a letter last week, a group of trade associations asked for an extension of the public comment period, citing the precedent set by past DOL fiduciary rule proposals.
When the 2010 fiduciary rule was released, DOL initially had a 90-day comment period, followed by a 14-day extension. DOL then held a public meeting, followed by a 15-day comment period for response.
The 2016 fiduciary rule was accompanied by a 75-day comment period and a 15-day extension. After a public hearing, there was then another 15-day comment period.
A DOL spokesman did not respond to emails and phone messages. The department said the hearing will start at 9 a.m. both days, be held via WebEx, and continue Dec. 14 if needed. Requests to testify at the hearing must be submitted on or before Nov. 29.
“The Department will organize the hearing into several moderated panels,” the DOL announced. “Presenters will be given 10 minutes to testify, and they should be prepared to answer questions regarding their testimony. EBSA may limit the number of presenters based on how many testimony requests it receives.”
The DOL released its latest fiduciary rule attempt on Halloween, with President Joe Biden joining for a press conference to denounce “junk fees.” The rule was widely criticized by industry trade groups who claim the extension of fiduciary duty to virtually anyone recommending an annuity would have a chilling effect on advice to middle-market savers.
The Insured Retirement Institute is one of the trade associations asking for an extension to the public comment period.
“IRI is disappointed with the Biden Administration’s rejection of additional time to comment on a nearly 500-page proposed fiduciary rule that will limit many lower and middle income consumers’ access to their choice of financial professional and to needed retirement planning strategies and products,” the group said in a statement.
House GOP passes fiduciary rule amendments
Meanwhile, House GOP members attached amendments Tuesday night to an appropriations bill denying funding for the fiduciary proposal.
An amendment sponsored by Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., would prevent the DOL from using any funds appropriated to the agency to “finalize, implement, or enforce the proposed rule entitled ‘Retirement Security Rule: Definition of an Investment Advice Fiduciary’ or any substantially similar rule.”
The fiduciary package include three additional guidance documents with proposed changes to various exemptions. Amendments were passed denying funding to carry out those proposals as well. All amendments were attached to the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2024.
The amendments are not likely to matter. The White House responded late Tuesday with a press statement promising that Biden will veto the bill as it stands.
“The Administration strongly opposes sections 117, 118, and 119 of the bill, which would prevent DOL from using funds to administer, implement, or enforce rules providing critical protections of workers’ wages and retirement plans,” reads the statement section on the DOL.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH.
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