Category Archives: 401(k)

Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #29

Best Interest Standard and Recommendations of Rollovers and Withdrawals

On June 15, SEC Chairman Clayton issued a statement partially entitled:  “Need for Increased Care when Recommending 401(k)/IRA Rollovers and Withdrawals . . .”. As that title suggests, the Chairman’s statement covers areas where the SEC will focus on recommendations when Reg BI applies on June 30. One of those areas of “increased care” is the recommendation of rollovers (and other withdrawals) from retirement plans.

The best interest standard for investment advisers became applicable last year. As a result, the Chairman’s statement already applies to rollover recommendations by investment advisers.

One part of the statement is entitled:  “Areas Where Increased Care May be Necessary When Making Recommendations to Main Street Investors“. In that part, the statement says:

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The CARES ACT: Helping Your 401(K) Participants During the Coronavirus Crisis

Waiver of Required Minimum Distributions

Updated through July 28, 2020
By Fred Reish, Bruce Ashton and Betsy Olson

This is the third in our series of articles on special CARES Act provisions designed to help your 401(k) participants.  In our prior articles, we discussed the temporary loan enhancement rules and coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs).  Here we discuss the temporary relief from taking required minimum distributions.  NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect guidance issued after the original publication, in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Notices 2020-50 and 2020-51.

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The CARES Act: Helping Your 401(K) Participants During the Coronavirus Crisis

Special Distributions to Qualified Participants

Updated through July 28, 2020
By Fred Reish, Bruce Ashton and Betsy Olson

Our first article discussed CARES Act provisions designed to help your 401(k) participants with temporary loan enhancements.  Here we discuss a second provision of the Act that can help participants who are affected by the coronavirus (called “qualified individuals”*).  This is a special coronavirus-related distribution (a CRD).  Though we discuss this in the context of 401(k) plans, the CRD provision applies to all qualified plans, 403(b) plans and IRAs as well.  NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect guidance issued after the original publication, in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Notice 2020-50. 

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The CARES Act: Helping Your 401(K) Participants During the Coronavirus Crisis

The Enhanced Loan Provision for Qualified Participants

Updated through July 28, 2020
By Fred Reish, Bruce Ashton and Betsy Olson

With the spread of the coronavirus and the resulting closures and cutbacks, many 401(k) participants are working reduced hours, but are not considered to be terminated for purposes of ERISA. Furloughs and similar required leaves are common for businesses whose employees interact directly with retail customers, such as restaurants, stores, and gyms.

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The Coronavirus Crisis: What Plan Sponsors Should Do

By Fred Reish and Bruce Ashton

The Coronavirus pandemic is disrupting everyone’s personal and financial lives. While our health, and that of our families and friends, is paramount, we realize that the sudden and large investment losses in the 401(k) plans that you sponsor – and act as fiduciaries for – present issues more challenging than those typically encountered by employers and plan committees.  This article suggests steps that you can take as fiduciaries to address those challenges.  The article also applies to advisors because it addresses questions they may get from plan sponsors.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #15

Best Interest: Rollover Recommendations (Part I)

The SEC has issued its final Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI), Form CRS Rule, RIA Interpretation and Solely Incidental Interpretation. I am discussing the SEC’s guidance in a series of articles entitled “Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors.”


This article discusses how the Care Obligation in Reg BI applies to recommendations to roll over accounts in 401(k) plans to IRAs. When Reg BI applies, beginning June 30, 2020, rollover recommendations to participants in “workplace retirement plans” will be subject to the Best Interest standard.

It’s important to note, though, that Reg BI still permits education and information that stops short of being a recommendation. However, the education and information cannot be a disguised recommendation.

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Best Practices for Plan Sponsors #12

Lessons Learned from Litigation (#5)—The Johns Hopkins Case

This is the twelfth in a series of articles about Best Practices for Plan Sponsors. To be clear, “best practices” are not the same as legal requirements. Instead, they are about better ways to manage retirement plans. In many cases, though, “best practices” also are good risk management tools because they should exceed legal standards, address areas of concern, or anticipate future developments as retirement plans and expectations evolve.

Plan sponsors should be aware of the latest trends in fiduciary litigation to help manage the risk of being sued and, if sued, the risk of being liable. In my past four plan sponsor posts, Best Practices for Plan Sponsors #8, #9, #10 and #11, I discussed the lessons learned from the conditions in the settlement agreements for the Anthem, Vanderbilt, BB&T and ABB cases. This article—about the Johns Hopkins settlement agreement—is another example of the importance of using appropriate share classes and the monitoring of compensation of service providers . . . and more.

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3 lessons for advisers from 401(k) and 403(b) class action settlements

Fred Reish writes a quarterly column for Investment News. This quarter’s article points out that retirement plan committees rely on their advisers to keep them informed of new developments related to 401(k) and 403(b) plans, including advice about risk management. To help advisers fulfill those expectations, this article discusses the recent settlements in the Anthem 401(k) and Vanderbilt 403(b) cases.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #8

Senior Clients: The SEC is looking at practices of RIAs

I am writing two series of articles that together are called “The Bests.” One is about Best Practices for plan sponsors, while the other is about the Best Interest Standard of Care for advisors. Each series is numbered separately to make it easier to identify the subject that is most relevant to you.

This is the eighth of the series about Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors.

The SEC has initiated examinations of investment advisers concerning their practices in working with Senior Clients. According to the SEC, a “ ‘Senior Client’ is defined as any retail advisory client who is age 62 or older, retired, or transitioning to retirement, including accounts of deceased clients, and retail clients in joint accounts with at least one individual meeting this definition.”

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Best Practices for Plan Sponsors #7

Plan Success by the Numbers (Part 1)

This is the seventh of the series about Best Practices for Plan Sponsors.

Most companies have budgets for their business operations . . . and then regularly compare budget-to-actual. In other words, they compare their actual expenses to the budgeted amounts to see if they are on track to accomplish their financial goals. That’s pretty standard, and there is nothing remarkable about it. But, why don’t plan sponsors and fiduciaries, for example, plan committees, use that same approach for their 401(k) plans? I have a theory about that. But, before I explain my theory, let me say that I believe that plan committees should have budgets, or goals, and should measure their success in reaching those goals.

My theory is that 401(k) plans don’t set goals for plan success because 401(k) plans were originally viewed as the “employees’ plan.” The idea was that employees could do what they wanted to do, since the plan was a supplemental savings plan. That approach made sense when pension plans were more popular. However, now that 401(k) plans have become the primary retirement plan for most employers and employees, it seems fairly obvious that the burden of success of 401(k) plans needs to fall primarily on employers and fiduciaries.

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