The Department of Labor Fiduciary Rule May Impact Securities Arbitration Claims

shutterstock_163885049-300x200The fiduciary rule passed during the Obama administration is being reviewed by the Department of Labor (DOL), leaving plenty of uncertainty for advisers and investors. As Barry Tempkin reports, “During this period, advisers who do not receive level-fee compensation are held to the DOL impartial conduct standard for retirement accounts, but are not required to enter into best interest contracts for commission-based compensation.” Under the DOL impartial conduct standard, brokers who offer retirement investing advice are required to put clients’ interests ahead of their own. Although portions of the rule went into effect in June, there are additional requirements but the DOL has proposed a delay to fully implementing the rule until July 2019.

We cannot be sure how the current DOL under Secretary Acosta will ultimately handle the adoption of a fiduciary standard. In the meantime, the impartial conduct standard for retirement accounts will likely result in more litigation and arbitration. Since the rule benefits investors, there will likely be a higher success rate for investors’ representatives.

Under the new fiduciary rule, if an adviser engages in a BIC (“Best Interests Contract”) agreement with a client, it allows the adviser to engage in transactions that are prohibited under the rule. If the “Best Interests Contract” (BIC) exception goes into effect, these claims will include breach of contract.

In conclusion, an increase in the number and types of claims can be expected with the implementation of the DOL fiduciary rule. It remains to be seen how the current DOL will put the rule into effect and should become clearer as we approach July 2019.

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