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 »
While you have probably read articles that summarize the DOL’s final fiduciary rule and exemptions—and perhaps even articles that discuss specific aspects of the rules, there are a number of interesting observations “hidden” in the preambles to the regulation and exemptions.
In many cases, those comments are so focused on limited issues or complex that they are beyond the scope of the initial articles, speeches and webcasts. As a result, I will be writing several articles about those “nuggets.” This is the first of those articles.
In the preamble to the Best Interest Contract Exemption (BICE), the DOL noted that a fiduciary adviser and his or her financial institution (e.g., RIA firm or broker-dealer) could contractually limit the duty to monitor. But then the DOL went on to say:
“Further, when determining the extent of the monitoring to be provided, as disclosed in … Read More »
2016 promises to be the year of the fiduciary . . . the fiduciary rule, that is.
It now seems certain that we will have a final fiduciary rule in effect by the end of 2016.
What will that mean? It will re-write the rules for investment advice and sales to retirement plans and IRAs. The impact will vary, depending upon whether the person making the recommendation is an RIA, a broker-dealer, or an insurance agent or broker.
For example, for RIAs, the greatest impact will be on investment advisers who recommend retirement plan distributions and rollovers and those who receive additional fees (for example, 12b-1 fees) from their IRA investors. On the other hand, advisers of broker-dealers will need to make significant changes in disclosures and compensation practices across the board (that is, for recommendations to plans and IRAs, and recommendations about … Read More »
The increasing regulation of 401(k) distributions and rollovers to IRAs continues to be a subject of great interest to my clients . . . and a considerable amount of work for me. One of the benefits of concentrated work in that area has been an enhanced appreciation of the difficulty of broker-dealers, provider call centers, and RIAs in providing compliant services . . . from a practical perspective.
For example, viewed academically, it is possible to put together a compliant rollover program under FINRA’s guidance in Regulatory Notice 13-45. At the least, that would involve written materials and discussions about the seven factors listed in the guidance. The written materials would be provided to participants to both educate them and to support compliance and supervision. The conversations would be structured to provide a reasonable basis for developing a suitable recommendation, based … Read More »
In Advisory Opinion 2013-03A, the Department of Labor said: “This letter also does not address any fiduciary issues that may arise from the allocation of revenue sharing among plan expenses or individual participant accounts . . .”
In effect, the DOL was saying that it has not issued any guidance—and is not prepared to issue guidance—concerning the allocation of revenue sharing. That is a reminder that there isn’t any explicit guidance on how to allocate revenue sharing. As a result, fiduciaries need to engage in a prudent process to make that decision.
In most cases, revenue sharing is used to pay the cost of recordkeeping. In effect, it is arguable that, when the recordkeeper keeps the money, it is a pro rata allocation among the participants’ accounts. That is because the most common way of allocating expenses (for example, recordkeeping or RIA … Read More »