It was a very busy year in financial services. Our website visits grew by 72 percent to five million as we brought you comprehensive coverage of the industry. This week, we will bring you our top five most popular 2017 stories in life insurance, annuities, finance, politics, health insurance and the DOL fiduciary rule.
Nearly all of our most-read stories were about the Department of Labor fiduciary rule as the election of President Donald J. Trump gave rise to hopes for a repeal.
The campaign to derail the rule did not go smoothly, as nothing seemed to for the novice administration officials. Problems getting a labor secretary confirmed delayed efforts to ice the Obama-era fiduciary rule.
Once Secretary Alexander Acosta was confirmed in late April, it was already too late to stop the initial requirements of the fiduciary rule from taking effect. Acosta later led efforts to delay the second phase of the rule until July 1, 2019.
This Feb. 3 story on a Trump signing ceremony kicked off a wild weekend that had everyone from House Speaker Paul Ryan to industry officials thinking the president signed an order delaying the fiduciary rule.
At the last minute, White House officials softened the language and Trump actually signed a memorandum ordering the DOL to study whether the rule harms investors or the industry.
In the days after the president's Jan. 20 inauguration, industry officials were already pondering the possibilities for a delay or repeal of the fiduciary rule.
In this story, Bradford Campbell, former assistant secretary of labor under President George W. Bush, weighed in with his expectations for a six-month delay.
“The Department of Labor fiduciary rule itself is not something that can be whisked away with the stroke of a pen,” said Campbell, of Drinker Biddle & Reath, a law firm that advises on DOL issues.
No. 3: DOL Rule Delay Sent to OMB
After taking a cautious approach, the DOL finalized a 60-day rule delay by the end of March.
The delay pushed the applicability date for the initial rule requirements to June 9. Many industry analysts expected the DOL to use the extra time to undo many of the fiduciary rule measures, or implement another delay.
But Acosta opted for the safe route and allowed the rule to take effect.
Two weeks after Acosta was confirmed by the Senate, we received a clue on how he might handle the DOL rule, something about which he had not spoken publicly.
Acosta wanted to freeze the fiduciary rule in a way that will “stick,” according to an email a Senate aide sent to rule opponents.
Acosta told Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., that the rule was his No. 1 priority and that he recognized the urgency of the situation, according to an email from Scott’s aide.
The DOL took an aggressive approach with phase two of the fiduciary rule. The agency eventually published a delay of 18 months, until July 1, 2019.
Phase two of the rule deals with exemptions, which regulate the sale of annuities sold with retirement funds. In particular, this deals with the Best Interest Contract Exemption, which requires a financial institution to accept liability for each contract and gives clients the right to sue over investment advice.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH.
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