Earlier today, I noted how the Department of Labor released some proposed regulations by burying them deep in the Federal Register. Now word comes today of a press conference AND press release on a subject that I have to confesscourtesy morgue file handshake, I’m having a hard time wondering what the fuss is about.

Apparently, so does Footnoted author Michelle Leder:

Yesterday, the SEC sent out a media advisory alerting reporters of a press conference set for 2 p.m. today with both Chairman Chris Cox and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to talk about ways the two agencies would work together “to protect approximately $5.5 trillion in retirement assets of investors nationwide.” It sounded pretty important. But today, after reading the release as well as the memorandum of understanding, I’m awfully glad I didn’t hop on the Acela.

Leder goes on to note that "Clearly, given everything else that’s going on with the state of the economy, two top government officials — one of them a Cabinet member — can come up with more important things to do than agree to continue cooperating."

So what’s this "memorandum of understanding" about? The press release noted that the SEC and DOL "agreed  to make permanent their agencies’ longstanding relationship of sharing information on retirement and investments".  In doing so, they have agreed upon a formal "Memorandum of Understanding", nicknamed a "MOU". 

What does the MOU require?

  • The establishment of regular meeting and points of contact between the two agencies;
  • Cross-training of staff;
  • DOL Access to Non-Public SEC Examination Information; and,
  • SEC and DOL Access to Non Public SEC and DOL Enforcement Information.

Suffice to say, I can’t see this making the headlines of any major papers, particularly with an earthquake (even a relatively minor one) dominating the news.

And for everyone outside of the SEC and DOL, I can’t see this MOU having any significant impact; it doesn’t change any of the rules that employers face. 

If you’re interested, the DOL’s new proposed regulations still haven’t warranted a press release from the DOL either.