Learn About: What the Investment Fiduciary Rule Means for You?

Sep 23, 2022 By Triston Martin


A fiduciary is a trusted advisor responsible for managing another person's financial resources. Known as "fiduciary duty," this legal obligation requires fiduciaries to act in the best interests of their clients or beneficiaries at all times. For a financial planner to fulfill their fiduciary obligation, they must put the client's interests ahead of their own by recommending investments that would yield the highest possible return, rather than seeking to maximize their earnings. U.S. federal law specifies the requirements for fiduciary relationships. New fiduciary guidelines have been issued over the years to broaden the scope of fiduciary duty to encompass a wider range of financial advisors, such as brokers and administrators of pension plans and IRAs (IRAs).

Fiduciary Rule Example

The Department of Labor issued a fiduciary rule in 2012 to address how 401(k) plan administrators must determine and report fees and investment performance. First, the fiduciary rule made it clear that anyone managing a 401(k) account on someone else's behalf is responsible for doing so with the utmost care and attention to the account's best interests. The rule also mandated increased openness so that plan participants could make more educated investment decisions, and fiduciaries were instructed to standardize their methodologies by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requirements.

How Fiduciary Duty Works

Fiduciaries owe two primary duties to beneficiaries concerning the beneficiary's assets: the duty of care and loyalty.

Duty of Care

As part of their fiduciary obligation, business decision-makers owe it to their clients to conduct thorough, careful analyses of all relevant data. This need could be met by financial consultants who, before making any recommendations or plans, carefully examine all of the data related to your financial situation. On the other hand, corporate directors may seek advice from professionals in the field, and they should keep thorough records and follow industry best practices.

Duty of Loyalty

Fiduciaries must report financial or personal conflicts of interest to uphold the duty of loyalty. They are not permitted to utilize their official capacity to advance their own goals. A fiduciary financial advisor may be loyal to their clients by providing suggestions on which they may earn compensation.

The Old Standard

Advisors used to base their investment suggestions on a more relaxed appropriateness criterion, which just permitted them to consider the client's specific situation before recommending a particular investment. On the surface, that norm makes sense, so why alter it?

Conflicted Advice

The previous norm did not address inconsistencies between interests. Commission-based advisors have a conflict of interest. They stand to gain the most commission by steering customers toward higher-priced products. Even though not all commission-based advisors are dishonest, there are serious incentives at play that could influence their recommendations. To illustrate, let's say an advisor is trying to decide between two potential recommendations for a client. The commission rate for the former is 2%, while that for the latter is 5%.

What Is the Best Interest Standard?

In 2019, the SEC passed a regulation known as "Reg BI." FINRA is responsible for enforcing it. Broker-dealers and other service providers to customers are held to a code of ethics outlined in Reg BI.

Reg BI Includes

They put the client's interests first when advising on purchases or investments. Clients should always come first, so avoiding and disclosing potential conflicts of interest is important. They provide evidence for why a given course of action is specifically suitable for the client rather than just a generic group of people in a similar position. To comply with Reg BI, brokers and advisors must also fill out Form CRS, a client relationship summary. This certifies the client's business relationship with the broker, advisor, and company.

Pros and Cons

For investors, the fiduciary rule seems ideal. It would shield tens of millions of people from paying excessive commissions on investment products and from making poor financial decisions that aren't in their best interest. Broker conflicts of interest may cost retirement investors as much as $17 billion annually, according to a White House report from 2015. However, many people in the financial sector strongly disagree. It's no secret that the fiduciary rule isn't universally well-liked among those who make living advising on retirement strategies.


Fiduciary Ruling was a hotly contested issue in the financial industry, with many brokers and investment firms doing everything in their power to prevent it from taking effect. The Fiduciary Ruling was implemented to safeguard clients' best interests rather than the brokers' and advisors' financial gain. This resulted in reduced broker commissions, decreased "churning" income, and higher compliance expenses. Even though the DOL's Fiduciary Rulings were overturned in 2018, the department's secretary said in May this year that they were working with the SEC to reinstate the Ruling. Persons whose IRAs and 401(k)s are fully managed suffered the most. The Fiduciary Ruling would have had the greatest impact on these investors.

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