Wealth Management


If the fiduciary rule was on its last legs before, it is really in trouble now. The DOL’s rule suffered its first significant court defeat this week. A US circuit court struck down the rule, saying it was too broad and “unreasonable”. The court found fault with the government’s broadened definition of what constitutes financial advice and who gives it. The loss means circuit courts have split on the fiduciary rule and it now appears likely the Supreme Court will take up the case.

FINSUM: This is a major blow to the fiduciary rule, and may help usher an even quicker departure for it. It will certainly give the DOL more ground to shift to a new rule co-drafted with the SEC.

(New York)

It as another solid year for RIA M&A. Just as in 2016, there was strong deal flow, and the number of transactions closed was exactly the same in 2017 as the year prior. That said, deal size and total AUM declined. The first half of 2017 was significantly stronger than the second half, with the majority of the year’s 94 deals getting done in the first half. TD Ameritrade says distraction from tax reform in the second half of the year was partly to blame for the decline in momentum. Total AUM acquired was $106 bn, and the average transaction size was $1.13 bn.

FINSUM: These look like pretty pretty strong numbers to us. The market still seems to be ripe for further consolidation.

(New York)

Advisors need to be very mindful of an old regulation that is taking on new relevance in light of the fiduciary rule. While the DOL’s rule may not be fully enacted, one concept it adopted, which is based on precedent from the ERISA and IRS codes, could be a thorn in the side of advisors. That concept is “reasonable compensation limits”, and is of particular concern to high earning advisors as they will need to look hard at the services they provide and come up with justifications for their pricing. According to a top industry lawyer, this rule will not be undone by a new SEC or DOL rule, so it is here to stay; “Even if the DOL, SEC or Finra roll back the fiduciary rule so that lots of advisor reps and insurance agents are no longer fiduciaries, the reasonable compensation limits would still apply”.

FINSUM: The argument is that this rule’s new relevance will lead to a clearing out of highly priced and highly paid advisors.

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