Thank you, Mr. President. I rise today to speak in support of H.J. Res 88, expressing Congressional disapproval of the rule submitted by the Department of Labor related to the definition of the term “fiduciary” and the conflict of interest rule with respect to retirement investment advice.
We have a retirement coverage gap in America. There are tens of millions of Americans who are not prepared for retirement. The regulation put forward by the Obama Administration that we are debating today will limit the advice that individuals seeking access to retirement plans can receive, thereby increasing the size of that retirement gap. This regulation will significantly impede the ability of low and middle-income Americans to save for retirement.
I’ve heard for many years that the goal of this regulation is to force financial advisors to work in the best interest of their clients. I’m completely in favor of financial advisors doing so. I’ve cosponsored legislation requiring that practice in law. In fact, in my almost 20 years of working on retirement policy in the United States Senate, I have never met anyone who doesn’t agree that financial advisors should act in the best interest of their customers.
The problem with this rule is that it goes far beyond requiring a best interest standard. It goes so far as to effectively prohibit the means by which low and middle-income Americans receive retirement advice. A massive regulatory regime has been created in this rule. It will undoubtedly raise the costs in a $24 trillion, or to put it in numbers that are easier to understand, a $24,000 billion industry.
Sure, large companies and retirement savers with large assets will be probably be able to deal with the increased costs, but what about small advisors and retirement savers with moderate assets like in most of the cities and towns in states like Wyoming? This rule will negatively impact the services and choices available to investors. I can’t imagine why limiting options, choices, and services is being touted as a victory for anyone.
My home state of Wyoming is hurting. Our energy-based economy is declining significantly, largely due to regulations added by the Obama Administration. Now, that same Administration is issuing a regulation that will hurt the future savings of my constituents. Wealthy Americans across America will not be affected by this rule. They can go about receiving their retirement advice the same way they always have. However, many of my constituents will be affected by this rule. Their retirement savings will suffer, it’s as simple as that.
There are approximately 28.8 million small businesses in America. Those businesses create 2 out of every 3 net new private sector jobs and employ nearly half of America’s workforce. I’m a former small business owner. I know well what it takes to run a small business. This rule will hurt retirement coverage among small businesses. It will create burdens and limits options for small businesses trying to offer retirement plans. In my experience, that will result in of one of two things: either increased costs or no access to retirement advice. The Obama Administration is going to force small businesses to choose between paying increased fees, which jeopardizes the success of the business and therefore the jobs of the employees, or not providing access to retirement savings for their employees, which jeopardizes the lifelong income of those employees. It’s a no win situation for small employers who are trying to take care of their employees and grow their business.
We have precedent to look to when examining the impact this rule will have on our economy. A very similar change was made in the United Kingdom just a few years ago. Back in March, the U.K. released a study which confirmed that there is a very disturbing retirement advice gap for low and middle-income individuals.
I’ve read how this Administration, as well as some of my friends on the other side of the aisle, have said that this rule is different than that issued by the U.K. Here’s the thing: it’s really not all that different. The impact is the same and here’s what has happened: wealthy individuals are getting access to retirement advice while middle-and- lower-income individuals are not.
I have not understood, nor will I understand, why this regulation was put forward and finalized. The Department of Labor itself admitted on February 29th that “relatively little is known about how people make planning and financial decisions before and during retirement.” The Department of Labor, which is the proponent of this rule, does not know how people make planning and financial decisions before and during retirement. Why would such a seemingly disastrous regulation be put forward when it’s unknown how many people it will affect?
The regulation that we are debating today has been lauded as one that will help low and middle-income individuals save for retirement. I refute that claim with two main points: First, an analysis of a very similar change to a retirement system has proven that the exact opposite has occurred. And second, the authors of this regulation know little to nothing about how many people this will impact.
As I stated in the beginning of my remarks, we have a retirement coverage gap in America. I’ve been working for almost 20 years in the Senate to help close that gap. All this new regulation will do is limit retirement advice for the people who need it the most. I urge my colleagues to support this Resolution of Disapproval.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.