Tag Archives: Costs

Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #49

The Department of Labor’s “Fiduciary Rule,” PTE 2020-02 (Part 14): The Two Compensation Requirements: Reasonable Compensation and Mitigation


This series focused on the DOL’s new fiduciary “rule”. This post is the 14th in a subseries discussing special or unique compliance issues related to the rule. This article looks at the issues related to complying with the rule’s reasonable compensation and mitigation requirements, with particular emphasis on broker-dealers and investment advisers.


On February 16, 2021, the DOL’s prohibited transaction exemption (PTE) 2020-02 became effective. (Improving Investment Advice for Workers & Retirees) It 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 retirement plans, participants and IRA owners (“retirement investors”).

In the preamble to the PTE, the DOL announced an expanded definition of fiduciary advice, meaning that many more financial institutions and investment professionals will be fiduciaries and therefore will need the protections afforded by the exemption. They will also need to satisfy the best interest standard of care. The relief provided by the exemption is conditional, that is, the “conditions” in the exemption must be satisfied to obtain relief from the prohibited transaction rules in ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code. For the period from February 16 until December 20, a DOL and IRS non-enforcement policy based on the Impartial Conduct Standards will be available.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #48

The Department of Labor’s “Fiduciary Rule,” PTE 2020-02 (Part 13): The Two Compensation Requirements: Reasonable Compensation and Mitigation


On February 16, 2021, the DOL’s prohibited transaction exemption (PTE) 2020-02 became effective. (Improving Investment Advice for Workers & Retirees) It 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 retirement plans, participants and IRA owners (“retirement investors”).

In the preamble to the PTE, the DOL announced an expanded definition of fiduciary advice, meaning that many more financial institutions and investment professionals will be fiduciaries and therefore will need the protections afforded by the exemption. They will also need to satisfy the best interest standard of care. The relief provided by the exemption is conditional. That is, the “conditions” in the exemption must be satisfied. For the period from February 16 until December 20, a DOL and IRS non-enforcement policy based on the Impartial Conduct Standards will be available.

This article builds on my earlier posts: Part 11, Mitigation, and Part 12, Reasonable Compensation. They are connected in the sense that unreasonably high compensation would be difficult to mitigate.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #47

The Department of Labor’s “Fiduciary Rule,” PTE 2020-02 (Part 12): The Requirement that Investment Advisers and Broker-Dealers to Receive No More Than Reasonable Compensation


On February 16, 2021, the DOL’s prohibited transaction exemption (PTE) 2020-02 became effective. The PTE is titled “Improving Investment Advice for Workers & Retirees.” It 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 retirement plans, participants and IRA owners (“retirement investors”).

In the preamble to the PTE, the DOL announced an expanded definition of fiduciary advice, meaning that many more financial institutions and investment professionals will be fiduciaries and therefore will need the protections afforded by the exemption. In addition, they will need prudent, or best practice, processes to satisfy the fiduciary and best interest standards of care.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #34

Regulation Best Interest: Best Interest and Suitability—How They Differ (Part 5)

Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) imposes a “best interest” standard of care on broker-dealers for their recommendations of securities and investment strategies to retail customers. That raises the question, what does best interest mean and how does it differ from suitability?

Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series (Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #30, #31 and #32) explain that the difference between best interest and suitability is not easily defined. However, based on the SEC’s discussion in the Adopting Release for Reg BI, I provided five examples of where best interest appears to impose a more demanding standard than suitability. These examples focus on the Reg BI requirement that broker-dealers (and their registered representatives) consider costs in the development of recommendations. While costs are not the only factor to be considered, the SEC says that “best interest” makes cost a more important factor than it was under the suitability standard.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #33

Regulation Best Interest: Best Interest and Suitability—How They Differ (Part 4)

Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) imposes a “best interest” standard of care on broker-dealers for their recommendations of securities and investment strategies to retail customers. That raises the question, what does best interest mean and how does it differ from suitability?

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #32

Regulation Best Interest: Best Interest and Suitability—How They Differ (Part 3)

Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) imposes a “best interest” standard of care on broker-dealers for their recommendations of securities and investment strategies to retail customers. That raises the question, what does best interest mean and how does it differ from suitability?

(Note:  While the discussion in this article is based on Reg BI’s best interest requirements for broker-dealers, the SEC has also imposed a best interest standard on investment advisers. As a result, investment advisers should also be attentive to these issues.)

As I explained in Parts 1 and 2 of this article (Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #30 and #31), the difference between best interest and suitability is a hard question without an easy answer. However, based on the SEC’s discussion in the Adopting Release, I have developed examples of where best interest appears to impose a more demanding standard than suitability. These examples focus on the Reg BI requirement that broker-dealers (and their registered representatives) consider costs in the development of recommendations. While costs are not the only factor to be considered, the SEC says that the best interest rule makes cost a more important factor than it was under the suitability standard.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #31

Regulation Best Interest: Best Interest and Suitability—How They Differ (Part 2)

Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) imposes a “best interest” standard of care on broker-dealers for their recommendations of securities and investment strategies to retail customers. That raises the question, what does best interest mean and how does it differ from suitability?

While the discussion in this article is based on the Reg BI best interest requirements for broker-dealers, the SEC has also imposed a best interest standard on investment advisers.  As a result, investment advisers should also be attentive to these issues.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #30

Regulation Best Interest: Best Interest and Suitability-How They Differ (Part 1)

Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) imposes a “best interest” standard of care on broker-dealers for their recommendations of securities and investment strategies to retail customer. That raises the question, what does best interest mean and how does it differ from suitability? That’s a hard question without an easy answer. Even the SEC acknowledges in the adopting release for Reg BI that:
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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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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #10

Regulation Best Interest: The Focus on Costs (Part 2)

The SEC has issued its final Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI), Form CRS Regulation, 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.”

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The SEC’s Reg BI establishes a best interest standard of care for investment recommendations to retail customers by broker-dealers and their registered representatives. In addition, Reg BI requires new disclosures and mitigation of advisor’s financial conflicts of interest. The SEC also issued an Interpretation of the Standard of Conduct for Investment Advisers, which clarified the SEC’s position on a number of issues related to the fiduciary standard and conflicts of interest for RIAs. There were two other pieces of guidance: the Form CRS Regulation (which requires a simplified front-end disclosure by broker-dealers and investment advisers); and the Solely Incidental Interpretation for limited discretion and monitoring of accounts by broker-dealers.

In my last article in this series, I pointed out that the SEC has explicitly included the consideration of costs in the text of Reg BI and stated that broker-dealers must consider costs for every recommendation (beginning on Reg BI’s compliance date of June 30, 2020). That doesn’t mean that the lowest-cost investment or investment strategy must be recommended (e.g., where the customer’s investment profile indicates that a more expensive alternative would be better serve the investor), but it does mean that costs must be part of that analysis, and that higher-cost alternatives must be justified by the retail customer’s investment profile. Picking up with where the last article left off, here is the SEC’s thinking:

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