The year in political stories was dominated by one issue – the Department of Labor fiduciary rule.
While President-elect Donald J. Trump has not rendered an opinion on the rule, he was virtually the only one to ignore it.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said the rule “hurts Americans saving for retirement.” President Barack Obama said the rule will “ensure consumers continued access to competent advice.”
And on and on it went. But there were other political stories of interest in 2016 as well. For example, a presidential election attracted plenty of notice.
Here are the top 10 political stories that gained the most reader attention in 2016:
1. DOL, OMB May Blunt Fiduciary Rule, Delay It Until Late May
Former DOL Deputy Secretary Seth D. Harris speculated that the fiduciary rule would be delayed until late May and far less objectionable than the industry expected.
Harris was mostly wrong on both counts. Published April 6, the rule left the industry dismayed by its harsh treatment of fixed indexed annuities.
2. Fiduciary Rule a Goner, Democratic Insider Says
Democratic strategist Michael Lewan found a big audience with his opinion that Trump will eliminate the fiduciary rule.
With Republicans controlling both Congress and the White House, repealing the rule is certainly possible. But the processes to do so are cumbersome and time consuming.
3. Lawsuit Filed to Overturn DOL Fiduciary Rule
Lawsuits filed in early June to stop the DOL rule caught our readers' attention.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce went first, but it was not alone. The chamber lawsuit eventually was consolidated with two similar complaints filed in U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas.
Additional lawsuits were filed in federals courts in the District of Columbia, Minnesota and Kansas. Opponents are still searching for the first victory.
4. Tough Questioning In DOL Rule Injunction Hearing
Interest was high when the National Association for Fixed Annuities got the first courtroom opportunity in the bevy of lawsuits against the DOL.
The August hearing was held before Judge Randolph D. Moss of the U.S. District Court for District of Columbia. Moss engaged in tough questioning of Philip Bartz, attorney for NAFA, expressing skepticism of the plaintiff’s arguments.
It would turn out to be a preview of his decision, which denied NAFA’s request for a preliminary injunction.
5. Trump Ready to Name Pro-Business DOL Head, Reports Say
The surprise Election Day upset by Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton gave way to new hope for opponents of the DOL rule.
Attention quickly turned to who Trump would nominate as his secretary of labor. That person would hold significant sway over the future of the rule, pundits speculated.
As our popular story predicted, Trump would nominate fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder, an avowed opponent of regulation.
6. Showdown 2016: Where the Candidates Stand
As the contentious primaries rolled on, this chart proved more and more popular. It showed where all the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates stood on issues of importance to the financial services industry.
7. Could DOL Rule Get Caught Up In ‘Regulation Day’ Madness?
This March story explained the urgency the Obama administration felt in racing to publish its rule by May 17.
That date was important because it gave political opponents additional options to kill any regulations published afterwards. It became a moot point after the DOL published its fiduciary rule on April 6.
8. Justice Department Fires Back at Fiduciary Rule Opponents
After its fiduciary rule was countered with a barrage of June lawsuits, the DOL responded with a July court filing.
Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the DOL countered a series of claims made by the National Association for Fixed Annuities. Most of those claims were repeated in the other lawsuits.
DOL attorneys made a convincing case, as Judge Randolph D. Moss ultimately sided with the government in a November decision.
9. House Committee Passes Bill to Reverse Dodd-Frank, DOL Rule
The fiduciary rule shared space with the Dodd-Frank Act in this September story about a bill passed by the House Financial Services Committee.
Among the many changes the Financial CHOICE Act proposes, it would block the DOL from implementing its new fiduciary rule by incorporating into the Retail Investor Protection Act, which passed the House last year. Introduced by Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., the RIPA requires the Securities and Exchange Commission to move first on a fiduciary rulemaking before the DOL can act.
The bill eliminates several Dodd-Frank provisions, including federal "bailouts" and the Volcker Rule, which restricts trading activities at banks.
Speculation has the GOP-led Congress using the Financial CHOICE Act as a vehicle to kill the fiduciary rule and Dodd-Frank.
10. Stemming the Tide: The Forces Behind the Fiduciary Rule
In the only commentary piece to make our top 10, Kim O’Brien examines what forces may have been at work behind the DOL rule.
Vice chairman and CEO of Americans for Annuity Protection, O’Brien concluded that “it is clear that the Fiduciary Rule was constructed to keep money inside 401(k)s.”
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected].
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