IRAs are still on the Labor Department's radar when it comes to hammering out just how the fiduciary responsibility of retirement advisors will eventually work, but "run of the mill" commissions may be safe.
Phyllis Borzi, head of the Employee Benefits Security Administration and architect of the recent fiduciary debate, is "mystified" over all the angst over advisors and retirement accounts.
She is adamant that American workers need to be protected against conflicts of interest, especially in IRA accounts.
But she notes that EBSA has turned a blind eye on commissions on basic asset classes in IRAs -- including stocks, bonds, and annuities -- for decades now.
As such, she wonders why commission-driven advisors are threatening to pull out of retirement markets entirely if EBSA forces them to act like fiduciaries.
It's a good question. Borzi says commissions on "alternative" asset classes have never been exempt from the EBSA fiduciary rules, which is one reason things like private equity rarely show up in retirement accounts beyond "self-directed" IRAs.
Still, it's unlikely that the advisors who are complaining about the proposed tighter rules are selling a lot of expensive hedge fund shares to their largely mass-market clients.
That just wouldn't be suitable at this level, much less qualify as serving the client's ultimate best interest.
Either way, she says the revised rules are coming early next year.