The landscape surrounding the US Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) fiduciary rule continues to shift in unpredictable ways. First, the DOL was successful in the first reported decision in the numerous lawsuits challenging its promulgation of the rule. On November 4, in one of such challenges filed by the National Association for Fixed Annuities (NAFA), (Nat’l Assoc. for Fixed Annuities v. Perez), Judge Randolph Moss of the US District Court for the District of Columbia denied NAFA’s motion for a preliminary injunction to delay implementation of the rule, and granted the DOL’s cross motion for summary judgment on each of NAFA’s six substantive challenges to the rule. Judge Moss’s comprehensive, 90-plus page decision carefully considered and rejected all of NAFA’s arguments in a case that appears to establish a strong precedent that may support the DOL in fending off other challenges to the rule.
However, the DOL’s victory in the federal courts may be short-lived; that result could be trumped (pun intended) by the outcome of the presidential and congressional elections on November 8. President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign platform indicates that the new administration intends to “issue a temporary moratorium on new agency regulations,” “reform the entire regulatory code,” and “eliminate our most intrusive regulations.” Though his platform does not provide an exhaustive list of regulations on the proverbial chopping block, it is at least possible that the fiduciary regulation may not survive the new administration’s regulatory review—or that Mr. Trump may be willing to approve legislation proposed by members of both chambers that would rescind, revise, and/or delay the DOL rule (and that would have certainly been vetoed by President Obama).
The last word has yet to be written on the DOL’s fiduciary rule, and financial services firms affected by the rule may wish to continue their efforts to come into compliance; however, they ought also to closely monitor developments over the next few months.