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Athene president applauds possible delay of DOL rule

Athene Holding Ltd. President William Wheeler welcomes a potential delay of the Department of Labor's fiduciary rule, saying the original regulation had "serious problems."

The Labor Department in an Aug. 9 legal brief said it is looking at delaying full implementation of the Conflict of Interest Rule by 18 months to July 1, 2019. The fiduciary rule went into partial effect on June 9, which made Athene's distribution partners subject to the best-interest standard.

Wheeler in prepared remarks during a second-quarter earnings conference call said he was "encouraged" that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the Securities and Exchange Commission are examining concerns created by the DOL rule. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton in July expressed hope that his regulatory body and the DOL would be able to "reach common ground" prior to full implementation. Fellow Commissioner Michael Piwowar also pressed the DOL to work more closely with the SEC on the fiduciary rule. Both men have said they were concerned that the rule, as written, would lead to non-uniform standards and be disruptive to the industry.

When asked whether multiple delays of the rule's implementation would cause problems, Wheeler said he would "much prefer" an additional postponement to the original rule going into full effect. Because of the way the rule was written, its provisions would be left to judicial interpretation, said Wheeler, and that would be "very problematic." That the Labor Department is mulling another delay probably means that regulators are trying to "get it right," the Athene president said.

"All in all, if it's a good rule, it's going to be helpful to the annuity market and helpful to us and the consumers," he said, adding that he sees it as important to get rid of the "more obnoxious" parts of the rule as it stands now.