Category: Plan Sponsors


What’s Hot . . . in the First Quarter of 2015?

Posted on April 28, 2015, by Fred Reish in 408(b)(2), DOL Activity, fiduciary, Plan Sponsors, Recordkeeper. Comments Off on What’s Hot . . . in the First Quarter of 2015?

Over the last few months, the most common questions asked by clients . . . and most of my work . . . have been about three issues:

The DOL’s new fiduciary proposal . . . not surprising.
Capturing rollovers from retirement plans. Again, not surprising because of the large amount of money coming out of plans and in light of the attention being given to rollovers by the SEC, FINRA, DOL and GAO.
The use and allocation of revenue sharing in 401(k) plans.

I will be writing about the first two points in the future, so let’s focus on the third one now.

For about 20 years, mutual funds have paid revenue sharing to 401(k) recordkeepers for services provided to the mutual funds. That includes 12b-1 shareholder servicing fees, 12b-1 distribution fees, and subtransfer agency fees. The view was that the money was paid … Read More »

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Aging Boomers and Rollovers to IRAs

Posted on November 12, 2014, by Fred Reish in DOL Activity, fiduciary, Plan Sponsors, Recordkeeper, Registered Investment Advisers, Service Providers. Comments Off on Aging Boomers and Rollovers to IRAs

As baby boomers approach retirement in a defined contribution world, the regulators are focusing on distributions and rollovers to IRAs. The SEC, FINRA, DOL and GAO have all spoken on the subject. Their conclusion appears to be that plan fiduciaries, advisors and recordkeepers need to reconsider their current practices and, in some cases, change their practices.

Why? The reason is relatively straightforward. As large numbers of 401(k) and 403(b) participants approach retirement, regulators are becoming increasingly aware that they will be moving from a plan environment where they are “bubble wrapped” by plan fiduciaries . . . and have the benefit of being able to select from investments that have been vetted by the fiduciaries and that are, as a result, good quality and relatively low-cost investments. Based on current practices, most of those participants will rollover into IRAs with investments … Read More »

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Investment Policy Statement: Friend or Enemy

Posted on January 6, 2014, by Fred Reish in fiduciary, Plan Sponsors, prudent. Comments Off on Investment Policy Statement: Friend or Enemy

The ABB case has been thoroughly analyzed and widely discussed. Most of that analysis and discussion, though, has been about expenses and revenue sharing. This email focuses on the duty to follow the terms of investment policy statements (IPS). More technically, section 404(a)(1)(D) of ERISA requires that fiduciaries follow the terms of the documents governing the operation of the plan, unless it would be imprudent to do so. The IPS is one of the documents governing the operation of the plan.

As background, the trial court found that the ABB plan committee violated several of its fiduciary duties. One of those was the duty to follow the terms of the IPS. In the IPS, the committee was obligated to follow certain procedures concerning the removal and replacement of a fund, including placing a fund on the watch list before removing it. … Read More »

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Target Date Retirement Funds–Tips for ERISA Plan Fiduciaries

Posted on November 20, 2013, by Fred Reish in DOL Activity, fiduciary, Plan Sponsors. Comments Off on Target Date Retirement Funds–Tips for ERISA Plan Fiduciaries

In my last post—about the selection and monitoring of target date funds (TDFs), I said that I would also discuss the DOL’s recent guidance on that subject… here it is.

Earlier this year, the DOL published “Target Date Retirement Funds—Tips for ERISA Plan Fiduciaries.” You should read the full Tips (at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/fsTDF.pdf), but here are a few key points:

It is important that fiduciaries understand the asset allocations, glidepaths and expenses—and compare them to other TDFs. How many fiduciaries do that?
In selecting a TDF suite, fiduciaries should consider their participant demographics and other factors, for example, participation in other plans (e.g., pension plans or ESOPs), salary levels, turnover rates, contribution rates and withdrawal patterns. In other words, there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” TDF. How many fiduciaries do that?
Plan sponsors are encouraged to consider “custom” TDFs. That would include managed … Read More »

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Selection and Monitoring of Target Date Funds

Posted on October 7, 2013, by Fred Reish in Plan Sponsors, Uncategorized. Comments Off on Selection and Monitoring of Target Date Funds

As I review investment policy statements for participant-directed plans, I see a number of common deficiencies. This email is about one of those—the selection and monitoring of target date funds (“TDFs”).

In my experience, most IPS’ say little or nothing about the criteria to be applied to TDFs. For example, an IPS might be completely silent on the issue or may simply say that they will be selected and monitored. But, in neither case is there a robust set of criteria. That is problematic.

One reason is that TDFs are capturing an increasingly large percentage of 401(k) assets. As more plans automatically enroll, that percentage will continue to grow. I can imagine a day, in the not-so-distant future, where over half of the assets in 401(k) plans will be in TDFs. That leads to the unfortunate conclusion that, based on the current … Read More »

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Responsible Plan Fiduciaries and Disclosure Issues

Posted on September 4, 2013, by Fred Reish in 408(b)(2), Broker-Dealers, fiduciary, Plan Sponsors, Recordkeeper, Registered Investment Advisers, RIA, Service Providers. Comments Off on Responsible Plan Fiduciaries and Disclosure Issues

The 408(b)(2) regulation requires that its service, status and compensation disclosures be made to “responsible plan fiduciaries” or “RPFs.” In the rush to make the 408(b)(2) disclosures, most recordkeepers, broker-dealers and RIAs sent their disclosure documents to their primary contact at the plan sponsor. In at least some of those cases, the primary contact was not the RPF. As a result, we added language to our clients’ disclosures to the effect that, if the recipient was not the RPF, the written disclosure should immediately be forwarded to the RPF.

The regulation defines RPF as “a fiduciary with authority to cause the covered plan to enter into, or extend or renew, the contract or arrangement.” In other words, it is the person or committee who has the power to hire and fire the particular service provider, e.g., the broker-dealer, recordkeeper or RIA.

Because … Read More »

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The “Yale Professor” Letters on Fund Expenses

Posted on August 6, 2013, by Fred Reish in fiduciary, Plan Sponsors, prudent. Comments Off on The “Yale Professor” Letters on Fund Expenses

This article was prepared by Fred Reish, Bruce Ashton and Josh Waldbeser.

Letters to 6,000 sponsors of 401(k) plans, sent out by a Yale law school professor several weeks ago, generated considerable comment and controversy.  Some of the letters we reviewed suggested that the recipients were operating a “potentially high-cost plan” and that the fiduciaries may have breached their fiduciaries duties.  We sent an article by email a couple of weeks ago describing these letters and giving you a link to our bulletin on the Drinker Biddle website.  (A copy of that email is at http://fredreish.com/mass-mailing-to-plan-sponsors-about-excess-fund-fees/)

Since the last email, we have been able to do a more in-depth analysis of the professor’s underlying study and have concluded that it has material limitations.  As a result, it does not provide a valid basis for concluding that fiduciaries have breached their duties.  We have … Read More »

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Mass Mailing to Plan Sponsors About Excess Fund Fees

Posted on July 16, 2013, by Fred Reish in Plan Sponsors, prudent, Recordkeeper. Comments Off on Mass Mailing to Plan Sponsors About Excess Fund Fees

This article was prepared by Fred Reish, Bruce Ashton and Josh Waldbeser.

A Yale law professor is sending letters to many (perhaps thousands of) 401(k) plan sponsors telling them they may have breached their fiduciary duties because they are offering a potentially high-cost plan.   For example, in one letter, he said:  “Among plans of comparable size (measured by total net assets), your plan ranked worse than 78 percent of plans.”  He then added, “We wanted to inform you that we are planning to publicize the results of our study in the Spring of 2014.  We will make our results available to newspapers (including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal), as well as disseminate the results via Twitter with a separate hashtag for your company.”

His allegation is based on a study using data compiled by BrightScope, though we understand that BrightScope … Read More »

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Managing Plan Costs

Posted on June 12, 2013, by Fred Reish in 404a-5, DOL Activity, fiduciary, Plan Sponsors, Recordkeeper, Registered Investment Advisers, Service Providers. Comments Off on Managing Plan Costs

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 »

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Fiduciary Obligation to Select Appropriate Share Classes

Posted on May 14, 2013, by Fred Reish in fiduciary, Plan Sponsors, prudent. Comments Off on Fiduciary Obligation to Select Appropriate Share Classes

I imagine that, by now, you have heard about the Court of Appeals decision in Tibble v. Edison. While the court decided a number of issues, the most important one is that fiduciaries have an obligation to select appropriate share classes for their plans. Closely related to that is the trial court’s admonition that fiduciaries must ask about the available share classes.

ERISA imposes both a fiduciary rule and a prohibition on spending more than reasonable amounts for operating a plan, including the investment costs. The Tibble decision was about the reasonable expense ratios for plan investments. However, rather than looking at the evaluation of mutual fund expenses in the traditional way (that is, comparing expense ratios to those of other funds), the trial court found, and the appellate court agreed, that plans must use their purchasing power to select the … Read More »

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