When it comes to Washington issues affecting plan sponsors and service providers, the working title for 2016 will be The Year of the Fiduciary Rule.
Labor Department officials spent much of 2015 on a proposed new standard of fiduciary duty for anyone giving retirement investment advice, while a growing number of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle tried to put the brakes on it.
Despite that, most Washington observers expect a resolute Department of Labor — with White House backing — to prevail in the spring with a final standard, and then guidance. “The cost of continued inaction is too high,” said a DOL spokesman on background.
Congressional inaction also is likely, given a presidential election year in which the House has scheduled 95 voting days and the Senate will be in session for 26 weeks before the voters hit the polls.
That leaves little time for advancing new ideas on retirement savings. The strongest odds are that Congress will pass legislation allowing greater use of multiple employer plans, known as MEPs, by unrelated employers that do not want administrative burdens and fiduciary responsibilities of sponsoring plans.
Most of the action in 2016 will shift to the regulators, including the DOL, the Treasury Department and IRS, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.