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Merrill's IRA Stance Likely Won't Change if DOL Rule Repealed

November 23, 2016

Merrill Lynch isn’t likely to reverse its plans to kill commissions-based individual retirement accounts even if President-elect Donald Trump’s administration repeals the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, industry watchers tell InvestmentNews.

Last month, Merrill announced plans to stop offering commission-based IRA accounts to reduce potential conflicts of interests its brokers would otherwise face under the DOL rule, which forces retirement brokers to put clients’ interests first.

The “fanfare” surrounding that decision, which included a print, digital and social media marketing campaign touting Merrill’s commitment to their clients’ best interests, will make it difficult for the company to reverse course, Danny Sarch, founder and owner of recruiting firm Leitner Sarch Consultants tells InvestmentNews. Merrill Lynch declined comment to the publication on whether it would stay the course if the rule is repealed, but the firm is going through with its compliance plans, people familiar with the matter tell InvestmentNews.

Commonwealth, which in October also announced plans to bar commission-based IRAs, has taken the opposite tack. The firm believes that small accounts would be hurt by the rule, Wayne Bloom, the company’s CEO, told FA-IQ last week.

Therefore, the company wouldn’t go ahead with the change if the rule is scrapped, he said.

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Capital One, meanwhile, will go through with its plan to bar commissions on retirement accounts even if the DOL rule is eliminated, Jeff Sills, advice and planning chief at Capital One Investing told FA-IQ last week.

The industry is highly divided on whether the GOP-led Congress and President-elect Donald Trump will try to kill the rule, as reported previously.

While a Trump advisor has said that the rule should be repealed, Trump himself has yet to take a stance on the issue. However, the rule still faces several lawsuits launched prior to Trump’s victory. Last week, a Dallas judge questioned the DOL extensively in a hearing on a suit led by nine industry groups including the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

According to one lawyer present at the hearing, the judge may vacate the rule, InvestmentNews wrote.

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the InvestmentNews article cited in this story, click here.