Many recordkeepers and bundled providers charge plans based on the number of participant accounts. Many others do not explicitly charge on a per-participant basis, but incorporate the number of accounts (and possibly the average account balances) into their pricing. It is likely that this practice will increase in the future . . . due to the new 404a-5 participant disclosures, which must be made to every eligible employee, as well as to every participant of an account balance.
With that in mind, advisers, recordkeepers and plan sponsors should consider mandatory distributions of small account balances (that is, $5,000 or less) to manage plan costs.
If a plan has the required provisions, and if the provisions have been appropriately communicated to eligible employees and beneficiaries through summary plan descriptions, plans can make distributions of account balances of $5,000 or less. If the participants … Read More »
On July 30, the DOL reissued its Field Assistant Bulletin (FAB) concerning participant disclosures. The FAB was reissued because of the controversy about the DOL’s position on individual brokerage accounts.
The new FAB deletes the old, and controversial, Q&A 30 and replaces it with a new Q&A 39.
While some of the controversial provisions were removed, some remain. For example, the DOL states:
“…in the case of a 401(k) or other individual account plan covered under the regulation, a plan fiduciary’s failure to designate investment alternatives, for example, to avoid investment disclosures under the regulation, raising questions under ERISA section 404(a)’s general statutory fiduciary duties of prudence and loyalty.”
The DOL’s 404a-5 regulation places a fiduciary obligation on plan sponsors—in their roles as ERISA plan administrators—to make certain disclosures to participants. In the rush to comply with the 408(b)(2) disclosures, some broker-dealers may have overlooked the participant disclosure guidance about brokerage accounts in Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2012-02.
While the legal obligation is imposed on plan sponsors, the obligation will, as a practical matter, be on broker-dealers, since plan sponsors do not have the information or capability of making these disclosures. As a result, they will turn to their broker-dealers to satisfy the compliance requirements.
In DOL Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2012-02R, the Department of Labor explained the disclosures for individual brokerage accounts in participant-directed plans. I am concerned that many broker-dealers have not focused on these new “requirements.” That is true for several reasons, including:
So much money and energy have been devoted to complying with the plan disclosure requirements, that is, the 408(b)(2) disclosures.
The 404a-5, or participant, disclosure requirements are imposed on plan sponsors, in their fiduciary capacity. Stating this slightly differently, the participant disclosures for brokerage accounts are not imposed on broker-dealers, but instead are placed on the shoulders of the plan sponsors. Since it is not a legal responsibility for broker-dealers, it has not received the same attention as the 408(b)(2) disclosures. However, as a practical matter, plan sponsors will turn to the broker-dealers and insist that they satisfy those disclosure requirements. That seems … Read More »
Based on the DOL guidance in FAB 2012-02, many advisers have concluded that asset allocation models (AAMs) can be offered to plans without the need to treat them as designated investment alternatives (DIAs) and, therefore, without the need to report the performance history, expense ratios, etc., of the AAMs.
Unfortunately, that is an oversimplification and may inadvertently lead to problems under both the 408(b)(2) and 404a-5 regulations.
In May 2012, the Department of Labor issued a Field Assistance Bulletin that clarified some of the requirements for participant disclosures under the 404a-5 regulation. However, that Field Assistance Bulletin, or FAB, did more than explain. In some cases, it confused and in others, it shocked.
At first blush, it seems like 2012 is the year of plan disclosures and participant disclosures. The 408(b)(2) regulation is effective July 1, 2012, and the 404a-5 regulation follows two months later. However, there is more DOL activity than initially meets the eye.
There is an emerging issue under both the participant and plan disclosure rules concerning the information that must be provided for asset allocation models (AAMs).
It appears that some DOL officials are of the opinion that asset allocation models—at least under certain circumstances—are “designated investment alternatives” or DIAs. If AAMs are classified as DIAs, they are subject to disclosure requirements under both the plan and participant disclosure rules. As a practical matter, it may be impractical or even impossible for recordkeepers, broker-dealers and RIAs to provide that information.
Two other Drinker Biddle attorneys (Bruce Ashton and Joan Neri) and I just released a bulletin discussing what changes in the 408(b)(2) final regulation mean to registered investment advisers (RIAs). You can obtain a copy of the bulletin at:
While the final regulation clarifies a number of issues and grants an extension of time to comply, it also raises two issues which may come as a surprise to RIAs. The first is that asset allocation models (AAMs) may be treated as designated investment alternatives (DIAs), resulting in a number of disclosure requirements (both under 408(b)(2) and the participant disclosure regulation). The second is that the DOL has interpreted “indirect compensation” very broadly in a way that could require additional disclosures from RIAs. That would apply, for example, where investment providers (like mutual funds) or service providers (like independent recordkeepers or bundled … Read More »
This is another in a series of articles about interesting issues related to plan and participant disclosures.
The DOL disclosure regulations for both plan sponsor and participant disclosures are not clear about the treatment of brokerage accounts for a plan (for example, a small profit sharing plan) or for a participant-directed plan (for example, a self-directed brokerage account in a 401(k) plan).
For participant disclosures, the DOL has given informal guidance about the disclosures that must be made to participants . . . and those disclosures are minimal.
However, where a 401(k) plan consists exclusively of individual brokerage accounts, there are practical issues about how to comply with the 404a-5 disclosures generally. Since the brokerage accounts are not “designated investment options,” there are only minimal disclosures which must be made concerning the brokerage accounts. However, where only brokerage accounts are offered, the structure … Read More »