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The New Fiduciary Rule (26): Changes to PTE 2020-02 (1): Affecting the Advisor

In November 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor 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 (including transfers). On March 8, 2024, the DOL sent the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget in the White House.

Key Takeaways

  • The DOL’s proposed fiduciary regulation includes a new and expanded definition of when a person will become a fiduciary under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code due to recommendations to retirement investors.
  • As a result, many more advisors and agents will be fiduciaries.
  • If a fiduciary recommendation to a retirement investor is conflicted, any resulting financial benefit will be prohibited under ERISA and the Code. In that case, to avoid the consequences of a prohibited transaction, it would be necessary to comply with the conditions of a prohibited transaction exemption (PTE)—most likely PTE 2020-02.
  • This article discusses the proposed changes to PTE 2020-02 that will affect individual advisors and agents. My next article will discuss the changes that affect the financial institutions.

The first, and current, version of Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 2020-02 was effective in December 2020. In November of 2023, the DOL proposed amendments to PTE 2020-02 in connection with its proposed regulation expanding the definition of fiduciary advice to retirement investors—private sector retirement plans, participants in those plans, and IRA owners.

The proposed regulation will cause many more people and firms to be fiduciaries when they make “investment” recommendations to retirement investors. (I put the apostrophes around investment because the term, as used in the regulation, includes a range of services and types of properties.)

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