Recent State Fiduciary Duty Developments: Updates from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois and the CFP Board

The issue of “best interest” continues to be a hot topic in the states and trade groups, though one state has fallen out of the running…at least for now.

The State of Massachusetts has two pending initiatives. The first is a regulation proposed by the state Securities Division requiring investment advisers to create a table of fees for their services. The comment period on the proposal ended in May, and we await further action. In a more recent development, the Division is considering a regulation that would apply a fiduciary standard on broker-dealers, investment advisers and their representatives. The proposal was released in mid-June, and the comment period ends on July 26. Under the proposal, enforcement would be vested in the Securities Division, and it would not create a private right of action.

The comment period on New Jersey’s proposal to establish a fiduciary standard, originally released in April of 2019, has been extended to July 18, 2019.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (the “CFP Board”) has long had a Code of Ethics and Standards governing the conduct of its members in providing financial planning services. In November 2018, the CFP Board extended the Standards to include a fiduciary duty owed to clients to cover financial advice to clients. The change becomes effective in October 2019. However, unlike a law or regulation the standards would not create an enforcement right for regulations or investors; instead, a violation would only lead to disciplinary action by the CFP Board. Given the value that advisers place on the CFP designation, it will likely have a significant impact on their practices. (A description of the Standards has been added to our Best Interest and Fiduciary Developments chart. A link to the updated chart is provided at the end of this post.)

The one state where the pendulum in favor of state best interest and fiduciary standards has swung away from regulation is Illinois. In 2018, a bill entitled the Investment Advisor Disclosure Act was introduced in the state legislature. The bill had no text and no action was taken before the end of the legislative session. The issue appears to be dead, at least for now, since no new legislation has been introduced.

A copy of our updated Best Interest and Fiduciary Developments chart can be downloaded here.

House Looks to Put the Brakes on Reg BI

On the heels of the SEC’s recent approval of the “Reg BI Package,” on June 26, 2019 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would prevent enforcement of Reg BI.  Specifically, Rep. Maxine Waters included a last minute amendment to an appropriations bill that would prevent any funds from being used to “implement, administer [or] enforce” Reg BI.

While the bill was comfortably passed in the House, its prospects to pass in the Senate seem unlikely.  Senators will have the opportunity to introduce their own version, which will then need to be reconciled with the House’s.  As always, we will continue to closely monitor any developments concerning Reg BI, and will publish any updates.

The Final Reg BI Package: What to Know and What’s Next

To nobody’s great surprise, on June 5, the SEC approved the “Reg BI Package,” which includes a series of new standards governing the fiduciary responsibilities of broker-dealers and investment advisers. The approved items consisted of the Regulation Best Interest – Standard of Conduct for Broker-Dealers; Form CRS Relationship Summary; Standard of Conduct for Investment Advisers; and Interpretation of “Solely Incidental,” all of which seem likely to have considerable impact on the industry going forward.

Drinker Biddle’s Best Interest Compliance Team issued an alert summarizing the June 5th meeting, certain statements made by the commissioners, and examining the potential effects of the new standards.

Read the full client alert.

Recent State Fiduciary Duty Developments

We have updated our State Fiduciary and Best Interest Developments chart to reflect regulatory changes in New Jersey. The New Jersey Bureau of Securities has proposed a rule that will establish a fiduciary standard for broker-dealers and clarify the standard applicable to investment advisors. The comment period on the proposal ends on June 14; we anticipate that the regulation will become effective later in 2019. (Details of the proposal may be found in the chart.) The proposal is part of New Jersey governor Murphy’s aim to provide strong consumer protections. That objective also led Gov. Murphy in the last few days to veto legislation that would have eliminated a fiduciary standard for insurance producers.

We are also delighted to announce the expansion of the Drinker Biddle Best Interest Compliance Team by the addition of a team of attorneys with experience in litigation involving retirement and health benefits, especially in defending class action lawsuits. The new members of the Team are: Kimberly A. Jones, James F. Jorden, Glenn Merten, Gregory Ossi, Waldemar J. Pflepsen, Jr. and Michael A. Valerio.

Please contact us if you have questions about state developments or other issues that affect your business.

The Robare Ruling Regarding “May” Disclosures and “Willfulness”

The SEC continues to intensify its focus on investment advisers’ disclosures on Form ADV, including issues such as revenue sharing arrangements. A recent D.C. Court of Appeals decision finding that the use of the word “may” in such a disclosure violated the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 could have significant ramifications for investment advisers and the SEC’s Division of Enforcement going forward.

Read the full blog post.

SEC Issues Risk Alert Regarding Reg S-P, Privacy, Safeguarding, and Registrant Compliance

The SEC’s OCIE recently issued a Risk Alert focusing on compliance issues related to Regulation S-P, the primary SEC rule governing compliance practices for privacy notices and safeguard policies for investment advisers and broker-dealers. The Risk Alert summarizes the OCIE’s findings from two-year’s worth of issues identified in deficiency letters to assist investment advisers and broker-dealers in adopting and implementing effective policies and procedures for safeguarding customer records and information pursuant to Regulation S-P.

In this alert, partner Jim Lundy outlines the Regulation S-P requirements, the OCIE’s Regulation S-P findings and key takeaways for SEC registrants.

Updated State Fiduciary and Best Interest Developments Chart

We have updated our state fiduciary/best interest developments chart. We are still waiting for finalization of the Nevada rules on the fiduciary duty for broker-dealers and investment advisors and the effective date of the New York rules on the sale of annuities and life insurance. In the meantime, though, Maryland and Massachusetts have stepped in with new developments.

Continue reading “Updated State Fiduciary and Best Interest Developments Chart”

The DOL’s Temporary Enforcement Policy: Potential Traps for the Unwary

The overturning of the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule by the Fifth Circuit last year had two impacts: first, the definition of “fiduciary” for investment advice to plans and IRAs reverted back to the narrower Five-Part Test issued in 1975; second, the Best Interest Contract Exemption (or “BIC Exemption”) and amendments to other exemptions also ceased to exist.

Continue reading “The DOL’s Temporary Enforcement Policy: Potential Traps for the Unwary”

The First SEC Share Class Selection Disclosure Settlements: What We Learned & What’s Next?

Jim Lundy and Ben McCulloch authored an article entitled “The First SEC Share Class Selection Disclosure Settlements: What We Learned & What’s Next?” for the Investment Adviser Association’s IAA Newsletter Compliance Corner. In the article, Jim and Ben discuss the first wave of settlements under the SEC’s SCSD Initiative as well as lessons learned. They also explore the agency’s ongoing efforts regarding the remaining participants, consequences for firms who opted not to self-report, and the Division of Enforcement’s continued scrutiny of revenue sharing arrangements, disclosures, and conflicts.

Read the full article.

*Originally published in the IAA Newsletter, April 2019