Tag Archives: conflict

The New Fiduciary Rule (17): Permissible Compensation under PTE 84-24

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 84-24.
  • 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 investments, insurance products and services, be no more than a reasonable amount. In other words, a prudent process will consider the costs of products and services relative to their value 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).

The Code has prohibited transaction provisions with similar limitations on compensation, that is, compensation cannot exceed a reasonable amount relative to the services provided. The Code limits apply to both tax-qualified retirement plans and IRAs (including individual retirement annuities). However, the Code does not have a standard of care for recommendations to IRA owners. Instead, the applicable standard of care is imposed by other laws and regulations (for example, the best interest standard for insurance agents in NAIC model rule 275).

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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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The New Fiduciary Rule (12): Advisors and Agents with Restricted Investment Menus (Part 1)

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

  • The Department of Labor’s proposed fiduciary “package” expands the scope of fiduciary status (to include, e.g., one-time recommendations) and the types of transactions that are covered by fiduciary advice.
  • That is particularly important since, where the fiduciary recommendation involves a conflict of interest (e.g., a new fee or a commission), the firms and their representatives and agents will need to satisfy the conditions of either PTE 84-24 or PTE 2020-02.
  • One question that arises under the best interest standard in the PTEs is whether an adviser or agent can make recommendations from limited, or restricted, menus of available products.

This article focuses on PTE 2020-02 and the relief it provides to broker-dealers, investment advisers, banks and trust companies, and insurance companies that sell through employees and statutory employees.

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The New Fiduciary Rule (3): Fixed Indexed Annuities

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

Key Takeaways

    • Statements from the White House indicate that the DOL and the White House are concerned that fixed indexed annuities may be inappropriately sold to participants and IRA owners (“retirement investors”) in connection with recommendations to roll over benefits from plans and to transfer money from IRAs. Some of the political rhetoric accompanying the release of the proposals was unusually harsh.
    • The reaction from the insurance industry and state insurance commissioners has been immediate and strong.
    • If the proposals become final as written, the greatest impact of the changes will likely be on insurance agents, particularly independent producers.
    • The greatest impact on products will likely be on fixed indexed annuities.
    • This and several following articles will cover the impact on independent insurance agents, insurance companies, and annuities.

This article discusses the DOL’s thoughts on prudent processes for evaluating fixed indexed annuities, which dates back to the Obama-era Best Interest Contract Exemption (which was vacated in 2018 by the 5th Circuit of Appeals).

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The New Fiduciary Rule (2): The Impact

The US 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 advice to plans, participants (including rollovers), and IRAs.

Key Takeaways

  • The Department of Labor’s proposed fiduciary “package” will have different impacts on different types of service providers to retirement plans, participants, and IRA owners (collectively, “retirement investors”) . . . .investment advisers, broker-dealers, banks and trust companies, and insurance agents (and companies) (“financial professionals”).
  • The greatest impact of the changes, if finalized as is, will be on insurance agents, particularly independent producers. Insurance companies issuing the life insurance policies and annuity contracts will also see increased compliance burdens.
  • For all of the types of financial professionals, the most impactful change will likely be that one-time investment recommendations to private sector retirement plans and their participants, and to IRA owners, will be fiduciary advice. That includes rollover recommendations.

This post discusses the likely impact of the new proposals. Future posts will go into more detail about the proposals and compliance issues:

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The New Fiduciary Rule (1): An Overview

The US 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 advice to plans, participants (including rollovers), and IRAs.

Key Takeaways

  • One time investment recommendations to qualified and ERISA retirement plans and their participants, and to IRA owners, can be fiduciary advice. Plans, participants and IRA owners are referred to as “retirement investors”.
  • A rollover recommendation is one-time advice that will result in fiduciary status.
  • Fiduciary recommendations that result in compensation to a securities adviser (that is, to an investment adviser or broker-dealer) or to an insurance agent will be prohibited conflicts of interest, necessitating satisfaction of the conditions in a prohibited transaction exemption.

This blog post is an overview of the new proposals. Follow up posts will go into detail on each of the proposals.

The proposed fiduciary regulation—called the “Retirement Security Rule”–defines fiduciary advice as follows:

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Discretionary Management of IRAs: Conflicts and Prohibited Transactions

Key Takeaways

  • Where an investment adviser charges different fees for managing fixed income in a portfolio than for managing equities, and has discretion to determine the allocation between the two in an IRA, the investment adviser has control over its fees, which appears to violate a prohibited transaction provision in the Internal Revenue Code.
  • The inadvertent violation can be corrected, going forward, by using a blended rate where both allocations are charged the same fee. In other words, there would just be an account fee and not a fee that varied by allocations that are within the control of the investment adviser.
  • There are other potential solutions, including transitioning the allocations to nondiscretionary advice.

Discussion

Both the Internal Revenue Code (Code) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) include prohibited transaction provisions that literally prohibit certain transactions (unless exempted by statute or by a prohibited transaction exemption). ERISA-governed qualified retirement plans are subject to both ERISA and Code prohibitions. However, standalone IRAs are only subject to the Code prohibitions. In that regard, Code sections 4975(c)(1)(E) and (F) provide:

(c) Prohibited transaction

(1) General rule

For purposes of this section, the term “prohibited transaction” means any direct or indirect—

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(E) act by a disqualified person who is a fiduciary whereby he deals with the income or assets of a plan in his own interest or for his own account; or

(F) receipt of any consideration for his own personal account by any disqualified person who is a fiduciary from any party dealing with the plan in connection with a transaction involving the income or assets of the plan.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #78: Compliance with PTE 2020-02: Mitigation of Incentive Effects of Payout Grids (Part 2)

The Department of Labor’s “Fiduciary Rule,” PTE 2020-02: The FAQs

Key Takeaways

  • The DOL has issued FAQs that generally explain PTE 2020-02 and the expanded definition of fiduciary advice.
  • In FAQ 17, the DOL discusses both the implications of payout grids and mitigation techniques to minimize compliance risks.
  • The general mitigation requirement is that financial institutions—such as broker-dealers and investment advisers–mitigate conflicts of interest “to the extent that a reasonable person reviewing the policies and procedures and incentives as a whole would conclude that they do not create an incentive for the firm or the investment professional to place their interests ahead of the interest of the retirement investor”.

Background

The DOL’s prohibited transaction exemption (PTE) 2020-02 (Improving Investment Advice for Workers & Retirees), allows investment advisers, broker-dealers, banks, and insurance companies (“financial institu­tions”), and their representatives (“investment professionals”), to receive conflicted compensation resulting from non-discretionary fiduciary investment advice to ERISA retirement plans, participants (including rollover recommendations), and IRA owners (“retirement investors”). In addition, in the preamble to the PTE the DOL announced an expanded definition of fiduciary advice, meaning that many more financial institutions and investment professionals are fiduciaries for their recommendations to retirement investors and, therefore, will need the protection provided by the exemption.

Continue reading Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #78: Compliance with PTE 2020-02: Mitigation of Incentive Effects of Payout Grids (Part 2)

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