Insights


FINRA 2018 Annual Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter Makes No Mention of a Fiduciary Duty for Brokers

Posted on February 8, 2018, by Fred Reish in FINRA. Comments Off on FINRA 2018 Annual Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter Makes No Mention of a Fiduciary Duty for Brokers

FINRA released its 2018 Annual Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter (Priorities Letter) on January 8, 2018. While FINRA advises that it can change its priorities in response to circumstances, the purpose of the Priorities Letter is to permit broker-dealers to plan their compliance, supervisory and risk management programs and to prepare for FINRA examinations. Therefore, this Priorities Letter is significant both in what it says and in what it has chosen not to say including failing to discuss FINRA’s views regarding a “fiduciary standard.”

My colleagues, Sandy Grannum, Jim Lundy, Jamie Helman, and I wrote a post about this issue for the Broker-Dealer Regulation & Litigation Insights blog. Read more here.


Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #78

Posted on January 24, 2018, by Fred Reish in Broker-Dealers, DOL Activity, fiduciary, prohibited transaction, Registered Investment Advisers, RIA, Uncategorized. Comments Off on Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #78

The Fiduciary Rule: Mistaken Beliefs (#3)

This is my 78th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.

The fiduciary regulation has been in effect since June of last year — a period of over six months. As you might expect, we are seeing mistakes and misunderstandings about activities that can result in fiduciary status for advisors. This article covers one of those.

The myth for this Angles is that broker-dealers and RIAs, and their advisors, must only recommend the lowest cost investments, for example, mutual funds with the lowest expense ratios. That is not correct.

In fact, the DOL has explained that:

“Consistent with the Department’s prior interpretations of this standard [the reasonable compensation standard], the Department … Read More »


Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #77

Posted on January 16, 2018, by Fred Reish in BICE, DOL Activity, fiduciary, prudent, Uncategorized. Comments Off on Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #77

The Fiduciary Rule: Mistaken Beliefs (#2)

This is my 77th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.

The DOL’s fiduciary regulation and the transition Best Interest Contract Exemption (BICE) first applied on June 9, 2017. In other words, the recommendations made by broker-dealers and RIAs, and their representatives, have been governed by those rules for more than six months. While the requirements of the fiduciary standard of care and transition BICE are fairly straightforward—at least for advisors who understand the fiduciary concept, I am hearing about misunderstandings of those requirements. Angles #75 was my first post about mistaken beliefs; this article continues that theme by examining whether the best interest standard mandates the selection of the … Read More »


Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #76

Posted on January 9, 2018, by Fred Reish in BICE, Broker-Dealers, DOL Activity, fiduciary, prohibited transaction, prudent, Registered Investment Advisers, RIA. Comments Off on Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #76

Discretionary Management of IRAs: Prohibited Transaction Issues for RIAs

This is my 76th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.

The regulation defining fiduciary advice for plans, participants and IRAs applied on June 9, 2017. As a result, we now have some experience with the fiduciary regulation and the transition prohibited transaction exemptions. Based on that experience, there are some significant misunderstandings about how the rules work. This article discusses one of those.

If a broker-dealer or RIA firm receives prohibited (or “conflicted”) compensation from an IRA, the compensation may be permissible under the Best Interest Contract Exemption (BICE). During the transition period (until July 1, 2019), BICE only requires that fiduciary advisors (such as broker-dealers and … Read More »


Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #75

Posted on January 2, 2018, by Fred Reish in BICE, Broker-Dealers, DOL Activity, fiduciary, prohibited transaction, prudent, Registered Investment Advisers. Comments Off on Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #75

The Fiduciary Rule: Mistaken Beliefs

This is my 75th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.

The fiduciary regulation has been in effect since June of last year — a period of over six months. As you might expect, we are seeing mistakes and misunderstandings about activities that can result in fiduciary status for advisors. This article covers one of those.

In the past, there was a common belief among advisors that fiduciary status could be avoided by presenting a list of investments to plan sponsors. For example, an advisor might provide a list of three alternatives in each investment category (e.g., three alternatives for a large cap blend fund, three alternatives for a small cap fund, … Read More »


Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #74

Posted on December 18, 2017, by Fred Reish in BICE, DOL Activity, fiduciary, Recordkeeper. Comments Off on Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #74

One More Fiduciary Issue for Recordkeepers

This is my 74th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.

In my last four posts, Angles 70 through 73, I discussed issues and opportunities for recordkeepers under the new fiduciary rule and the transition Best Interest Contract Exemption. This post covers a carve-out to the fiduciary definition that probably will not work—or, at least, won’t work effectively—for recordkeepers.

That carve-out to the fiduciary definition is one that allows recordkeepers to provide lists of the investments available on their platforms that satisfy certain criteria specified by the plan sponsor, for example, performance, expense ratios, volatility, etc. Specifically, that provision says that a recordkeeper does not become a fiduciary by:

Identifying … Read More »


Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #73

Posted on December 12, 2017, by Fred Reish in DOL Activity, Plan Sponsors, prudent, Recordkeeper. Comments Off on Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #73

Recordkeeper Investment Support for Plan Sponsors

This is my 73rd article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s (DOL’) fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.

In Angles article #70, I discussed three areas where the fiduciary rule is impacting recordkeepers. Those are: acceptance of fiduciary status; non-fiduciary investment services for advisors; and non-fiduciary investment services for plan sponsors. Angles articles #71 and #72 discussed the first two points. This article discusses the third.

In the past, recordkeepers often provided sample line-ups to start-up plans and to existing plans that were transferring to their recordkeeping platform. However, under the new fiduciary definition, a selective list of investments is considered to be fiduciary investment advice, which means that the recordkeeper would need to make prudent recommendations and … Read More »


Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #72

Posted on December 5, 2017, by Fred Reish in fiduciary, Plan Sponsors, prudent, Recordkeeper. Comments Off on Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #72

Advice to Advisors: The “Wholesaler” Exception

This is my 72nd article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.

In my Angles post #70, I discussed three issues for recordkeepers related to the fiduciary rule and exemptions. Angles #71 discussed the financial wellness programs developed by some recordkeepers. This article covers investment advice to advisors.

It is common knowledge that the recommendation of investments to a plan sponsor (that is, to a plan fiduciary such as a 401(k) committee) is fiduciary advice. However, it is less known that, under the new rules, investment recommendations made to fiduciary advisors is also considered fiduciary advice. And, since virtually every advisor to a plan, participant or IRA is now a fiduciary, that … Read More »


Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #71

Posted on November 29, 2017, by Fred Reish in BICE, DOL Activity, fiduciary, Recordkeeper. Comments Off on Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #71

Recordkeepers and Financial Wellness Programs

This is my 71st 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.

In my last post, Angles #70, I highlighted the three types of work that we are doing for recordkeepers as a result of the DOL’s fiduciary regulation and exemptions. This post goes into more detail about the development of financial wellness programs and the acceptance by recordkeepers of fiduciary responsibility for some of the services.

As background, the goal of financial wellness programs is to provide help to participants in achieving their short-, intermediate-, and long-term financial objectives. Recordkeepers are uniquely suited to provide those services, because of the information they already possess and because of their call centers. The services most … Read More »


Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #70

Posted on November 15, 2017, by Fred Reish in BICE, DOL Activity, fiduciary, Plan Sponsors, prudent, Recordkeeper, Registered Investment Advisers, RIA. Comments Off on Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #70

The Fiduciary Rule and Recordkeeper Services

This is my 70th article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.

Almost all of my Angles articles have been about the impact of the fiduciary rule on advisors—representatives of broker-dealers and RIAs. However, the fiduciary rule also affects recordkeepers and the services that they offer to plans and advisors. In that regard, most of the work that we are doing for recordkeepers falls into three categories:

Acceptance of fiduciary responsibility by recordkeepers for “financial wellness” of participants.
Providing investment services and support for advisors, without becoming a fiduciary.
Providing investment services and support for plan sponsors, without becoming a fiduciary.

The next few Angles articles will discuss these issues in detail. This article is … Read More »






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