Until retirement advice is free from conflicts in America!
The U.S. stock market soared after Trump’s electoral victory. Investors and traders put bets on his pledge to reduce corporate tax rates, pull back regulations and increase infrastructure spending. As seen in the chart on the right, fourth quarter returns for the U.S. stock market were higher for small companies and value-oriented stocks. Looking forward, the common theme among market forecasters is a low to moderate US stock market return (mid-single digit). This may be due to current valuations (see chart below) with price to earnings ratios well above their historical norms and an underlying fear of bubbles resulting from the Great Recession.
During a market update call on January 10th, an adviser asked if the “Trump Bump” could really be paid for by the President-elect. The market strategist explained it may be possible through reducing corporate tax rates and that every 1% drop in the effective corporate tax rate potentially generates an additional $1.50 of earnings for the S&P 500, currently at $115 per share (see attachment “Corporate profits”).
“If Trump dropped the current effective tax rate from 26% to 18%,” the strategist hypothesized, “earnings per share would increase to $128 and pay for the rally.” Ironically, “in each year from 2006 to 2012, at least two-thirds of all active corporations had no federal income tax liability…for tax years 2008 to 2012, profitable large U.S. corporations paid, on average, U.S. federal income taxes amounting to about 14 percent of the pretax net income that they reported in their financial statements (for those entities included in their tax returns).”
So, what do we know? There is a general concern about a continued decline in Treasury prices that coincides with the expectation of three Federal Reserve rate hikes in 2017. Also, leading economists like Trump’s commitment to infrastructure spending and believe it will boost non-college wages and jobs while, at the same time, they strongly disagree with his isolationist policies and deregulation of the energy industry.
What we don’t know?… the price of populism. I could not find an estimate on the timeframe or projected cost to Americans that economists fear. By the time you read this, America will have inaugurated Donald Trump as President of the United States and we will be embarking on his “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again” (attached). Whether it’s due to economic insecurity or a cultural backlash, Europeans and Americans have voted for protectionist leaders that have made big promises of change. Perhaps America will be the model for Brexit.
 GAO-16-363: Published: March 17, 2016 “Most Large Profitable U.S. Corporations Paid Tax but Effective Tax Rates Differed Significantly from the Statutory Rate”
For those who work for Broker-Dealers and Registered Investment Advisers, no one is certain whether Donald Trump or the Republican Party will attempt to eliminate the Fiduciary Rule or keep it intact. But before we get ahead of ourselves it is important to ask one question, will Donald Trump or the Republican Party be able to dismantle the Fiduciary Rule before it becomes enforceable on April 10th, 2017?
Although we cannot answer this question in confidence just yet, repealing this legislation will be quite a task for a few reasons:
Although it appears that the Fiduciary Rule is here to stay, we will keep you updated if there is anything that will threaten the rule.
By Mack Bekeza
Morgan Stanley recently announced how it plans to comply with the impending Fiduciary Rule. As expected, Morgan Stanley did not follow the Merrill Lynch path. Instead, it plans to operate under a provision of the rule called “Best-Interest-Contract Exemption (“BICE”)”. In other words, Morgan Stanley’s strategy is to tackle the compliance requirements and have its clients sign additional disclosures.
Morgan Stanley has decided to take the BICE route because it believes that its “advisers can most effectively uphold a fiduciary standard of care and work in clients’ bests interests by continuing to offer choice.” Morgan Stanley further stated, “Delivering a retirement account platform based on fiduciary principles that provides the widest possible capabilities and preserves client choice is our vote of confidence in our advisers’ continuing commitment to placing client interests first.”
Essentially, Morgan Stanley believes that offering clients the choice between having a commission-based or fee-based retirement account is in the client’s best interest. This also assumes that Morgan Stanley advisers will not sell or recommend certain alternative investments that might not optimally meet a client’s liquidity and retirement needs.
In our opinion, Morgan Stanley may have chosen its business model to differentiate itself from Merrill Lynch. Many advisers only sell commission-based products and want to work for a large broker dealer. The rule points out that paying commissions may be in a client’s best interest (versus asset-based fees) if they have few transactions. However, the firm might still come under fire if its clients believe they are being misled. At the end of the day, it’s about putting the clients first.
If you would like to read further into the decision, check out Investment News’s post about Morgan Stanley’s decision.
©2016 Castle Rock Investment Company. All rights reserved. Please share your insights and comments with us at Mack@Castlerockinvesting.com
During Morgan Stanley’s third quarter earnings conference call, James Gorman (CEO of Morgan Stanley) stated that the firm will announce their plan to comply with the DOL’s upcoming Fiduciary rule within the next couple of weeks. However, James Gorman did state that “we are not changing things”, “we run our business with the values of doing everything we can to support our clients and we will continue to do so.” In other words, Morgan Stanley will more than likely not go the Merrill Lynch route by no longer offering commission based IRA accounts.
So, if Morgan Stanley decides not to forgo commission based retirement accounts, what would be another possible strategy for them? Although the Fiduciary Rule will technically still allow commissions, it will be required for brokers and advisors to disclose all conflicts of interests to their clients with retirement accounts. It is also important to note that Morgan Stanley’s wealth management division currently oversees $2.1 trillion in client assets, with $855 billion of those assets being under a fee-based model which is a 75% increase from the third quarter of last year. In other words, Morgan Stanley’s strategy could have a significant ripple effect with their clients as well as their advisors.
In addition, Morgan Stanley was charged by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with “conducting an unethical, high-pressure, sales contest amongst its financial advisors to encourage clients to borrow money against their brokerage accounts.” Morgan Stanley says the allegation is “without merit” and will “vigorously” defend itself. Please note that Morgan Stanley has $70 Billion in client loan balances, which is a new record according to them.
With Morgan Stanley’s strong stance on how they run their business, it will be very interesting to see how this will all play out in the next couple of weeks. And if the charges from Massachusetts are correct, Morgan Stanley will face a world of hurt from regulators and potentially lose client assets. Click on the links to read further into Morgan Stanley’s conference call and the Massachusetts allegations.
In recent news, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans filed a lawsuit against the DOL over the new fiduciary rule and how it could prevent Thrivent from resolving disputes internally. Specifically, Thrivent is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against part of the rule that will allow investors to bring a class action against them.
So, why is Thrivent Financial worried about not being able to resolve disputes internally? For one, Thrivent primarily employs sales representatives who sell proprietary insurance and investment products on a commission basis, which will be considered a prohibited transaction under the new rule. Second, one of the primary sources of their total revenue comes from IRA investments and rollovers from qualified plans. In essence, Thrivent is basically claiming that they will have to completely overhaul their business structure.
Although there is not an official comment from the DOL in regard to this lawsuit, experts are curious to see if the DOL will point to statutory authority for regulating retirement accounts and whether or not they will prevail over the Federal Arbitration Act.
Although Thrivent is not the only firm dealing with this issue, it is ironic that a company that was founded and claims to operate under Christian principles is having issues with the contractual obligation to be a fiduciary. Also, the reason why the fiduciary rule and its allowable exemptions are being put into place is so firms such as Thrivent have to work in their retirement investors’ best interest. And on top of that, the fiduciary rule will help make the financial services industry a more true and honest profession, which will give investors more confidence to invest with these firms.
What are your thoughts on this case?
By Mack Bekeza
The Presidential Election and What to Know
Despite the pleasant performance in the stock market for 2016, investors are becoming more doubtful about the global economy as a whole in regards to how “pleasant” future growth will be. On top of that, The U.S is having one of the most interesting presidential elections in history. With both of the leading candidates making big promises to the public, how will these proposed actions affect the economy as a whole? But perhaps the biggest question and misconception that U.S investors have is “How does the President affect the economy?”
For our response, we want to point out 3 big myths about how the President affects the economy
1. Capital Markets perform better when Republicans are in the White House:
Although many consider the Republican party as the “pro-business” party, if you look at the returns of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since 1897, the markets do not give a hoot about who is president.
2. Major pieces of legislation get passed once the new President assumes office:
With the exceptions of the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank, The United States rarely makes major policy changes in one major swoop, rather in small increments.
3. The President has as much of an impact on the economy as consumers and businesses:
Although the media places major scrutiny on the President over the U.S Economy, government spending only accounts for 17.7% of total GDP, while the remaining 82.4% comes from consumer spending, private investments, and foreign trade.
So… will this presidential election completely change the way we invest? More than likely no. However, it is important to note the U.S GDP is expected grow between 1.5 to 2% over the next decade. This is primarily due the recent and projected dismal growth in the U.S labor force along with over $30 trillion in private wealth being transferred to younger generations. In other words, it is more crucial to observe how Millennials begin to take charge of the U.S Economy rather than who becomes president.
Attached are slides that provide more detail regarding presidential elections and major leading economic indicators.
©2016 Castle Rock Investment Company. All rights reserved. Please share your insights and comments with us at Mack@CastleRockInvesting.com.
On September 21rst, US District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree over saw a preliminary injunction hearing involving Market Synergy Group (“Market Synergy”) and the Department of Labor (“The DOL”). Market Synergy is an independent marketing organization (“IMO”) that represents 20,000 independent insurance agents and claims that the new DOL fiduciary rule will create irreparable harm to these agents. Specifically, they believe that independent agents selling Fixed Indexed Annuities (“FIAs”) should not be required to comply with the new rule.
One of Market Synergy’s primary claims is that IMOs are not considered “Financial Institutions”, a requirement to be subject to the rule, and therefore are not required to comply. They also claim that the DOL lacks the authority to regulate FIAs.
In our opinion, even if Market Synergy and other IMOs are not considered “financial institutions”, they are still selling FIAs that are primarily purchased via individual retirement accounts and, therefore, should be subject to the new rule. On top of that, FIAs typically pay notable commissions to agents, regardless if they are independent or not. In other words, these agents still need to prove that selling a FIA is in the retirement investors’ best interest.
Secondly, although states technically regulate insurance products, Judge Crabtree pressed Market Synergy, asking, “Couldn’t the federal government step in to regulate fixed indexed annuities if the states were doing a bad job regulating fixed indexed annuities?” Market Synergy agreed that if the DOL found that the states’ regulations were “woefully inadequate”, federal agencies, such as the DOL, could further regulate such products. Market Synergy essentially shot itself in the foot by agreeing to that statement.
Although Judge Crabtree is skeptical about Market Synergy’s claims, he is also skeptical whether or not the DOL has a strong claim that IMOs and their independent agents are subject to the new fiduciary regulation. In other words, there is still a possibility that an injunction will be placed on the DOL which will allow these agents to sell high commission products to retirement investors.
What are your thoughts on the case?
Water Cooler Wisdom The Day Finally Arrived On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 into law. The long-awaited tax legislation includes a wide array of changes, but a few interesting highlights are listed below. Reduces the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. Changes the taxation […]