EBSA and the IRS issued their long promised Request For Information on annuities-or, should I say, as promised by the EBSA. We had not expected this particular piece to be a joint effort. It shows that Phyllis’s and Mark’s agenda is getting policy effectively done, not engaging in damning bureaucratic turf warfare. Hmm. With this and the recent DOL/ SEC activities, we may be seeing a trend here somewhere….
The RFI is extensive and well thought out (though they do reference the GAO report I criticized in an earlier blog). There looks to be a lot of work put into the effort already, as it well identifies the key issues facing the idea of providing lifetime income streams.
Importantly, it does not make the mistake of focusing on "annuities." Instead, it focuses on how an adequate retirement policy addresses three key risks: longevity, Investment and Inflation (OK. So at least on THIS point the GAO report got it right). I believe the recent attacks by the Investment Company Institute, as well as Jack Brennan, on "annuities" misses the point: there are solutions needed to each one of these risks, solutions which can have a critical role for mutual funds, investment managers and the insurance industry. This is NOT an industry specific effort, as one industry alone cannot address all three of these risks without the others.
As promised, the RFI focuses strongly on transparency (yes, yes, my Annuity Transparency blog is coming), relevancy for the average participant, portability and cost. But I was intrigued by the questions related to 404(c) and IB 96-1 (on participant education). I am particularly interested in the insurer solvency issue, which to me is the key fiduciary risk (next to transparency), but you need to look closely in the RFI to find that issue.
The substance aside, one must be impressed by the process. We always thought the Borzi/Iwry combination would be an extraordinarily effective one, and this is proving to be true. Seeing these two longtime compatriots openly cooperate with the goal of effective public policy is something for which we have long waited.
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