Stakeholders in the country’s $23 trillion retirement market hadan eventful 2016.

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Between the release of the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule and theensuing legal challenges, the release of a safe harbor for stateand municipal-run retirement plans, the continued onslaught oflawsuits against 401(k) plans and a new raft of claims against403(b) plans at some of the nation’s mostprestigious universities, 2016 may go down as the mostconsequential year for the retirement market on record.

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And then there was the election.

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Here is a timeline of the year’s most noteworthy events,starting back in January when the DOL was putting the final toucheson the fiduciary rule, and predictions of a Trump presidency weremet with ridicule from experts across the political spectrum.

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1. DOL, industry lowball estimates of fiduciary rule’simpact

Days into the new year, Morningstar releases a report sayingLabor’s fiduciary rule will impact $3 trillion in retirement assetsand $19 billion of revenue in the financial services industry.

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Related: See all DOL fiduciary rule coveragehere

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The ratings agency projected the cost of implementing the rulewill be $2.4 billion, more than twice what the DOL and industry hadbeen estimating.

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Morningstar said between $250 billion and $600 billion oflow-account balance IRAs will flow out of commission-based accountsas a result of the rule, and more than $1 trillion of retirementassets would flow into passively managed investment funds upon therule’s implementation.

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Photo: AP

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2. Vanguard separates from pack

The New Year brought totals for 2015 fund flows, which showed Vanguard had an industry record of $236 inretirement assets flow into its mutual funds. More than $33 billionflowed into Vanguard target date funds.

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3. Even low-cost Vanguard funds too costly for 401(k)plans

Participants sued fiduciaries of health care giant Anthem’s401(k) plan.

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The suit claimed, in part, that its investment lineup, which wasdominated by retail-class shares of Vanguard funds, constituted abreach under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

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Related: Anthem participants in 401(k) suit faceuphill battle

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Attorneys at Schlichter, Bogard & Denton alleged retailshares were offered when institutional shares were available. Inthe case of one fixed-income fund, the spread between the two shareclasses was two basis points.

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The case marked an aggressive turn in the strategy of theplaintiffs’ bar. Now, even plans featuring low-cost Vanguard fundswere fair game. ERISA experts said participants in the case againstAnthem had an uphill battle. Vanguard was not named as a defendantin the suit.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

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4. Republicans introduce alt legislation to DOL rule

In February, Republicans on the House of RepresentativesEducation and Workforce Committee pass two bills as alternatives toDOL’s fiduciary rule on a party-line vote. The bills would neversee a full vote on the House floor.

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Related: Laws requiring Congress's approval of DOLfiduciary rule move to House

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The bills did have Democratic co-sponsors. Late in February,Rep. Jared Polis, requested the Labor Department give members ofCongress a look a the changes in the finalized version of the rulebefore it is released.

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Polis and other Democrats continued to voice concerns over therule’s potential impact on small investors. But by summer anyevidence of Democratic opposition to the rule would besilenced.

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5. Speaker Ryan weighs in on fiduciary rule

In March, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI, goes on the recordagainst fiduciary rule, weeks after a report out of Senate claimsto prove that the DOL did not adequately coordinate with theSecurities and Exchange Commission in promulgating the rule.

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Related: Obama, Ryan circle the wagons as OMBfinalizes fiduciary rule

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SEC Chair Mary Jo White would tell Congress later in month thatthe SEC did in fact coordinate with DOL throughout the rulemakingprocess.

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DOL Sec. Perez (far right) with President Obama, VP Biden, and other advisors (Photo: AP)

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6. DOL releases finalized fiduciary rule

On April 6, the final fiduciary rule is released, some sixyears in the making.

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Considerable changes were made to the proposed version of therule.

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“At its core, this rule ensures retirement savers get investmentadvice in their best interest,” said Labor Secretary Thomas Perezin a press call. “If that sounds like it is obviously the rightthing to do, that’s because it is.”

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Republicans immediately vow to fight the rule’s implementation. Democrats vowto defend it.

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7. Not a legal leg to stand on

In the weeks after the rule is released, Rep. Ann Wagner, R-MO,reintroduces legislation that would stop the fiduciary rule byrequiring the SEC to issue a fiduciary rule first.

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Also, rumors abound of legal challenges to the rule. In a pressconference, Sec. Perez says opponents of the rule won’t“have a legal leg to stand on in a lawsuit.”

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Pension protests. (Photo: AP)

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8. Treasury denies relief plan for Teamsters pension

The Treasury Department denies a request by theTeamsters Central States pension plan to reduce benefits toretirees in an effort to extend the solvency of the plan, which isprojected to run out of assets within 10 years.

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The Central States plan was the first to apply for the right toclaw back pensions under the 2014 Multiemployer Pension ReformAct.

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9. Obama vetoes bill to block fiduciary rule

At the end of May, the Senate passes legislation that originatedin the House to block the fiduciary rule. President Obama promptlyvetoes it.

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The first lawsuit against the DOL fiduciary rule occurred. (Photo: Getty)

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10. First lawsuit against rule emerges

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce files the first ofseveral lawsuits against the fiduciary rule in a Texas federalcourt. Suits would follow in the District of Columbia, Kansas andMinnesota.

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11. Brexit Vote proves unreliability of prognosticators,pollsters

In June, Britons voted to leave the European Union, sendingfinancial markets reeling—they soon recovered—and putting a serioushurt on the reputation of pollsters here and across the pond. Theoutcome of the referendum was widely predicted to be in favor ofstaying in the EU.

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The DOL released the safe harbor for state-run plans. (Photo: AP)

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12. Lawsuit against small 401(k) withdrawn

In July, a lawsuit against a $9 million 401(k) plan was voluntarily withdrawn in a Minneapolis federalcourt. The case was viewed by many as an ominous warning for smallsponsors of 401(k) plans.

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13. Safe Harbor released for state-run plans

At the end of August, the DOL released its safe harbor for state-run retirement plans,which would be extended to qualifying municipalities and countiesin December.

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California, Illinois, Maryland and Connecticut have alreadypassed legislation that will mandate automatic enrollment instate-administered retirement plans for businesses that offer asavings option.

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Donald Trump wins the electoral, though not the popular, vote. (Photo: AP)

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14. DOL survives first challenge

A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the District ofColumbia rules against the National Association of Fixed Annuities.The decision was expected. NAFA is appealing in the D.C. Court ofAppeals.

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15. Trump wins

Donald J. Trump is unexpectedly elected President of the UnitedStates. Speculation of the fiduciary rule’s impending doomimmediately emerges.

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The fiduciary rule survives one suit but the Texas case is still pending. (Photo: AP)

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16. DOL survives second suit in Kansas

Market Synergies, a Topeka-based independent marketingorganization, losses its lawsuit in a Kansas federal court againstthe DOL rule. ERISA experts had expected a victory for industry inthe Kansas court. The IMO has not yet said if it will appeal thecase.

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17. Waiting it out in Texas court

Arguments in the consolidated lawsuit against the DOL are heardin the Northern District of Texas. A decision has yet to bereleased, though it could come by the end of the year.

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Coal miners' health care and pensions were threatened. (Photo: AP)

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18. Miners snubbed in continuing resolution

Despite a considerable fight from Senate Democrats, the MinersProtection Act is not passed with the continuing resolution thatfunds the government through next April.

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A group of Senators form coal states threated to force agovernment shut down if the health care and retirement benefits of120,00 coal miners were not secured in the temporary budgets.Temporary funding was budgeted. Senate Democrats have vowed toaddress the Miners Protection Act early in the next Congressionalsession.

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19. Trump names Labor Secretary

President-elect Trump names Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKERestaurants, to head the Labor Department.

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Related: Fast-food CEO Puzdernominated

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The transition team remains silent on its intent with the DOLrule, but speculation within industry is projecting the rule’sApril 10, 2017 implementation date may be delayed.

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