In a relatively brief opinion issued by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 18, 2015, the Court unanimously ruled in favor of the plan participants, remanding the case to the lower courts for further proceedings. While the decision largely merely affirms established law, the question arises as to whether the decision may influence DOL rule-making in the months ahead.

COURT DISCUSSES MUTUAL FUND FEES. “[P]articipants’ retirement benefits are limited to the value of their own individual investment accounts, which is determined by the market performance of employee and employer contributions, less expenses.

As the DOL, with political backing from President Obama and Senator Warren (among others), ramped up efforts early this year in advance of the DOL's release of its proposed rule extending fiduciary duties, so did Wall Street and the insurance companies. Millions and millions of dollars have been flowing from broker-dealer firms, insurance companies, and others opposed to fiduciary rule-making. No surprise here.

Yet, the DOL's efforts continue.

Henry David Thoreau wrote in his book, Walden, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately … and not when I came to die discover that I had not live. I wanted to life deep and suck all the marrow out of life … to put to rout all that was not life.” While written more than a century ago, we might inquire what Henry David Thoreau might write about today. Perhaps that we know how to live life fast, but not deep.

I've previously written about the inability of a fiduciary plan sponsor to rely upon a non-fiduciary "retirement plan consultant." The thrust of my prior argument is that the fiduciary is bound to select experts diligently. Without the consultant possessing a fiduciary duty the plan sponsor is usually without a remedy should the recommendations later be shown to be poor, due to the shield of the low standard of suitability.

Over and over again, opponents of the fiduciary standard (whether imposed by the DOL or the SEC) herald their cry of "Don't Limit Investor Choice." For example, the National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA), whose members include some very large broker-dealer firms, insurance companies, and asset managers / product manufacturers (among others), recently opined that the DOL’s fiduciary rulemaking would keep “many Americans from working with the trusted advisor of their choice, even in the crit

An Open Letter to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Feb. 26, 2015

Tom Donahue, CEO

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Mr. David Hirschmann

President, U.S. Chamber’s Center for Capital Markets Employee Benefits Competiveness

Mr. Randel Johnson

Senior Vice-President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Labor Immigration and Benefits

Dear Mr. Donahue, Mr. Hischmann and Mr. Johnson:

I have observed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce undertake actions recently in apparent opposition to the U.S.
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Wall Street’s lobbyists are now in full press mode as they attempt to stop the Department of Labor from issuing a proposed rule on conflicts of interest. While the text of the proposed rule is not even yet known, Wall Street knows that their best shot at stopping the DOL's proposed rule on conflicts of interest is that the rule never even sees the light of day.

Introduction ... An Economic War is Taking Place

Fiduciary advocates tend to question the motives of those who oppose fiduciary standards. There is some reason for this ... the imposition of fiduciary duties, at its core, acts as a restraint on greed. The application of the fiduciary standard can (and nearly always does) lower fees and costs for individual investors.

As we approach 2015, I share with my "wish list' for the DOL, SEC, state securities regulators, and the various voluntary professional associations.

And I encourage YOU to undertake simple act, involving just a few minutes of your time, which may well serve to put us back on the path toward a true profession.

THE MANY VARIED PATHS TOWARD A MORE UNIFORM, ROBUST FIDUCIARY STANDARD OF CONDUCT FOR ALL PROVIDERS OF INVESTMENT AND FINANCIAL ADVICE.

2/14/2015

The Recent Rise of the U.S. Dollar

The U.S. currency gained in 2014 against all 31 of its major peers. The broad trade-weighted U.S. Dollar Index gained about 10% in just the last seven months (mid-2014 through January 2015). However, even with the recent surge, the dollar is only coming off historical lows, which occurred as the Federal Reserve kept interest rates extremely low for the past several years.

A different U.S. Dollar Index (which the Intercontinental Exchange Inc.
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