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The New Fiduciary Rule (16): Permissible Compensation under PTE 2020-02

The U.S. Department of Labor has released its package of proposed changes to the regulation defining fiduciary advice and to the exemptions for conflicts and compensation for investment recommendations to retirement plans, participants (including rollovers), and IRAs.

Key Takeaways

  • ERISA’s fiduciary and prohibited transaction rules require consideration of costs and compensation when fiduciary recommendations are made to “retirement investors,” that is, to private sector retirement plans, participants in those plans, and IRA owners.
  • Where the Internal Revenue Code’s prohibited transaction rules would be violated, the protection of an exemption is needed. In that case, the protections of PTEs 84-24 and 2020-02 will require that costs and compensation be considered.
  • This article focuses on limitations on compensation under PTE 2020-02. However, compensation of advisors and their firms is often an element of the costs of the services and products, and thus can also be part of the consideration of costs.
  • While the general rule in ERISA and the Code is that compensation cannot be more than a reasonable amount, the PTE has additional limitations.

ERISA’s fiduciary responsibility rules require that costs, for both investments and services, be no more than a reasonable amount. In other words, a prudent process will consider the costs of investments and services relative to the value of those investments or services to the retirement investor and relative to reasonably available alternatives. ERISA’s prohibited transaction rules, and the exemptions to the prohibitions, impose a similar limit on compensation when a fiduciary recommendation is conflicted, that is, the compensation cannot be more than a reasonable amount when compared to the value of services being offered. These rules apply to all ERISA-governed retirement plans and participant accounts in those plans (including rollover recommendations).

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