The Fourth Impartial Conduct Standard
This is my 50th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.
When the Department of Labor announced that the fiduciary rule and the transition exemptions would apply on June 9, it also issued a non-enforcement policy and a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Answers. The FAQs are titled “Conflict of Interest FAQs (Transition Period).”
For the most part, the FAQs are benign and helpful. However, FAQ 6 raises some significant issues for broker-dealers and RIA firms. In relevant part, FAQ 6 states:
During the transition period, the Department expects financial institutions to adopt such policies and procedures as they reasonably conclude are necessary to ensure that advisers comply with the … Read More »
The Requirement to Disclose Fiduciary Status
This is my 49th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.
When the new fiduciary rule applies on June 9, it will convert most non-fiduciary advisers into fiduciaries.
While there is not a disclosure requirement for new fiduciary advisers to IRAs, there is for these newly minted fiduciary advisers to plans. But it’s not part of the new regulation. Instead the requirement is found in the 408(b)(2) regulation which was effective in 2012.
As background, that regulation required that service providers to ERISA-governed retirement plans, including advisers, make written disclosures to plan fiduciaries of their services, compensation and “status.” The status requirement was that service providers disclose if they were fiduciaries under ERISA … Read More »
BICE Transition: More Than the Eye Can See
This is my 43rd article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.
As we all know by now, the new, and greatly expanded, definition of fiduciary advice becomes applicable on June 9. That means that almost any investment or insurance recommendation to a plan, participant, or IRA will be a fiduciary act. (The definition of investment recommendations is also very broad, including referrals to investment managers, recommendations to take distributions from plans, and recommendations to transfer IRAs.)
As a result, investment and insurance recommendations to participants and plans must be prudently developed and must be loyal to the plan or participant. But, recommendations to IRAs will not be subject to the … Read More »
Rollovers under the DOL’s Final Rule
This is my 42nd article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.
On April 7, 2017 the DOL issued its final regulation on the extension of the applicability date for the fiduciary definition and the related exemptions. This article discusses the impact of those changes on fiduciary status for recommendations to plan participants to take distributions and roll over to IRAs.
In its guidance, the DOL extended the applicability date of the new fiduciary definition from April 10 to June 9, but did not otherwise modify the definition. Since the fiduciary rule defined a recommendation to take a plan distribution as fiduciary advice, any recommendation to take a distribution and rollover to an … Read More »
SEC Examinations of RIAs and Broker-Dealers under the ReTIRE Initiative
This is my 38th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions.
As explained in my last post (Angles #37), the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) issued a National Exam Program Risk Alert concerning examinations about services offered by RIAs and broker-dealers to investors with retirement accounts. One of the areas specifically identified for those examinations is “Reasonable Basis for Recommendations.” The OCIE described that issue as:
“Registrants have important obligations under the federal securities laws and SRO rules (with respect to broker-dealers) when making recommendations or providing investment advice. To the extent applicable and required, the staff will assess the actions of registrants and their representatives for consistency with these … Read More »
Discretionary Management, Rollovers and BICE
This is my 33rd article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions.
Most broker-dealers and RIA firms are familiar with the provisions of the Best Interest Contract Exemption (BICE) and with the fact that, as a general rule, BICE applies only to non-discretionary investment advice. But, that isn’t the end of the story. There are some situations in which discretionary management can be used for recommendations that are covered by BICE. For example, if a representative of a broker dealer or an RIA prudently recommends a distribution and IRA rollover (satisfying the Level Fee Fiduciary conditions), the IRA may be invested using discretionary investment manager. (Note, though, that the discretionary investment management must be provided by a “pure” Level Fee … Read More »
One of the consequences of the presidential election is that the future of the fiduciary rule (and the exemptions) is uncertain. What does that mean to advisers . . . regardless of whether they are representatives of RIAs or broker-dealers, or for that matter, if they are independent insurance agents?
The answer is that nobody knows. However, this article outlines the most likely alternatives. Those are:
The rule will be killed by regulation or legislation.
The rule will be implemented “as is.”
The rule and the exemptions will be modified.
Only the second alternative (the “as is” option) could realistically be implemented by the current deadline of April 10. But, that’s the alternative that is, in my opinion, the least likely to happen. While it is low probability, it is high risk in the sense that broker-dealers and RIAs must be in compliance by April … Read More »
The Definition of Compensation
This is my twenty-seventh article about interesting observations concerning the fiduciary rule and exemptions.
As the readers of these articles know, one impact of the new fiduciary rule is that compensation paid to Financial Institutions and advisers must be reasonable. Reasonable, in turn, is a function of a transparent and competitive marketplace. However, where the competitive market does not work (for example, where compensation is not transparent), customary compensation may not be reasonable.
But, this article is not about reasonable compensation. Instead, the question is, what is “compensation?”
The Department of Labor partially answered that question in the fiduciary regulation:
“The term ‘fee or other compensation, direct or indirect’ means . . . any explicit fee or compensation for the advice received by the person (or by an affiliate) from any source, and any other fee or compensation received … Read More »
The Meaning of Differential Compensation Based on Neutral Factors
This is my twenty-fourth article covering interesting observations about the fiduciary rule and exemptions.
The DOL’s fiduciary “package” consists of a regulation that expands the definition of advice and exemptions, or exceptions, from the prohibited transaction (PT) rules. If a recommendation by a fiduciary adviser does not constitute a PT (e.g., does not affect the adviser’s compensation, or that of an affiliate, and does not cause a payment from a third party), no exemption is needed. However, if the fiduciary recommendation causes a PT, an exemption must be used – and most often that will be BICE – the Best Interest Contract Exemption. Therein lies the rub . . . the compensation of the financial institution (e.g., the broker-dealer) and the adviser are regulated by BICE.
Under BICE, the compensation of broker-dealers can be … Read More »
This is my twenty-third article about interesting observations concerning the fiduciary rule and exemptions.
When the definition of fiduciary advice is expanded on April 10, 2017, the investment and insurance recommendations of a much larger group of advisers will be classified as fiduciary advice and will, as a result, increase the focus on financial conflicts of interest (which ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code refer to as “prohibited transactions,” or PTs). My suspicion is that, for most ERISA retirement plans, there will not be a great impact on advisers—because, to a large degree, advisers to retirement plans already are acknowledged fiduciaries. (To be fair, though, there will be some impact . . . particularly on smaller plans, where some insurance companies and broker-dealers have, in the past, taken the position that their advisers are not fiduciaries. Nonetheless, based on my recent … Read More »