Tag Archives: exemption

The New Fiduciary Rule (20): Requirement to Correct Failures with PTE Conditions (Part 2)

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 (including transfers).

Key Takeaways

  • The expansive definition of fiduciary in the DOL’s proposed regulation will cause many more advisors and insurance agents to be fiduciaries for their recommendations to retirement investors. Where the recommendations result in additional compensation for them or their firms, that compensation will be prohibited. That would be the case where, for example, a rollover recommendation results in fees or commissions from the rollover IRA.
  • Where a prohibited transaction occurs, an exemption (PTE) will be needed, e.g., PTEs 84-24 or 2020-02, in order for the advisor or agent to receive any compensation, e.g., from the rollover IRA or annuity.
  • One of the conditions for obtaining the protection of either of those PTEs is an annual retrospective review and report on compliance with the requirements of the exemptions. If a failure is found in the review, it must be corrected.

When a person makes a “covered” recommendation to a “retirement investor” and the recommendation, when implemented, results in the person (or his or her firm or an affiliate) receiving additional compensation, a prohibited transaction (under the Code and/or ERISA) will occur.

A “covered” recommendation is one in which the person is a fiduciary (as defined in the proposed fiduciary recommendation) and the recommendation is about the investment of “qualified” or retirement accounts (as that is defined in the proposed regulation). Some of the covered investment recommendations include:  investing in securities, annuities or other property; rollovers; IRA transfers; withdrawals from retirement accounts; and investment strategies, policies and allocations.

The proposed regulation defines a “retirement investor” as a: …plan, plan fiduciary, plan participant or beneficiary, IRA, IRA owner or beneficiary or IRA fiduciary (retirement investor).

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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 (15): Reasonable Costs and Reasonable Compensation

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 are violated, the protection of an exemption will be needed. In that case, the protections of PTEs 84-24 and 2020-02 will require that costs and compensation be considered.
    • The consideration is that the costs and/or compensation cannot be more than a reasonable amount.
    • However, the determination of what is reasonable is largely left to industry practices—that is, what would the costs for a product or service, or the compensation of an advisor or agent, be in a transparent and competitive market.

The ERISA fiduciary responsibility rules require that plan 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. The ERISA prohibited transaction rules impose a similar limit on compensation where there is a fiduciary recommendation that results in a conflict of interest, that is, the compensation cannot be more than a reasonable amount when compared to the value of services being offered (and, in most cases, that would be the compensation paid for those services in a transparent and competitive marketplace). These rules apply to all ERISA-governed retirement plans and participant accounts in those plans.

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The New Fiduciary Rule (14): The Timeline for the Final Regulation and Exemptions

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.
  • The comment period for the proposed regulation and exemptions is over. The DOL now starts the process for finalizing the guidance and determining the effective date.

The DOL published its proposed fiduciary regulation and prohibited transaction exemptions in the Federal Register on November 3, 2023. That was the beginning of a process that will end with the final rules and their effective and applicability dates.

The “effective” date is the day on which the guidance becomes final as a regulation or exemption. The “applicability” date is the day on which the new rules must be complied with. The proposals said that the effective date and the applicability date would be the same. However, that may not be the case with the final rules.

This article is my best guess about the timing of the process to complete the DOL’s work.

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The New Fiduciary Rule (11): What is An Investment? (Part 3)

The U.S. 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.

The proposed regulation redefines fiduciary status for “investment” recommendations. But what is an investment recommendation? The answer: More than you think.

Key Takeaways

  • The Department of Labor’s proposed fiduciary “package” includes new definitions of nondiscretionary fiduciary investment advice.
  • Of course, the application of the definition is based on a recommendation about investments and other property. The proposed regulation has an expansive definition of such a recommendation.
  • Broker-dealers, investment advisers, and insurance companies, and their representatives, need to understand the range of recommendations that are covered by the fiduciary standards.
  • That is particularly true (i) since one-time recommendations can result in fiduciary status and (ii) where the fiduciary investment 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.

This article continues a discussion of the definitions of investment and other property transactions that, if recommended to a retirement investor (that is, a private sector qualified plan, participants in those plans, or IRA owners), will require satisfaction of the fiduciary standards and, in most cases, of the conditions of a prohibited transaction exemption.

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The DOL’s Regulatory Agenda and a New Fiduciary Rule

UPDATE: On August 8, I posted this blog article in contemplation of the DOL sending a new fiduciary proposal package to the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) in the White House. One month later, to the day, the receipt of the DOL’s proposed fiduciary rule and prohibited transactions was posted on the OMB’s website. In reviewing my blog article, I think it was spot on in predicting key elements of the fiduciary rule and the exemptions. However, that is still based on my crystal ball, since the changes new proposals won’t be known until they are vetted by the OMB and published in the Federal Register—probably 45 to 60 days from now. As this article suggests, the fiduciary proposal will likely say that rollover recommendations are fiduciary advice and that rollover recommendations to annuities will be subject to more stringent standards.

Key Takeaways

  • The anticipated DOL proposed fiduciary regulation could be sent to the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) in a matter of weeks.
  • The proposal will likely say that a rollover recommendation to a participant in an ERISA governed retirement plan is a fiduciary act.
  • The DOL will also likely propose amendments to prohibited transaction exemptions (PTEs), including to PTE 84-24, the exemption used for fiduciary rollover recommendations into individual annuity contracts.

The DOL has not appealed the decision in the Florida Federal District Court that vacated its fiduciary “re-interpretation.” That re-interpretation, in effect, said that ongoing investment advice to a rollover IRA could be connected to the rollover recommendation to a participant such that the “regular basis” prong of the 5-part fiduciary test would be satisfied. For context, the DOL had previously said that, if a person was not already a fiduciary to a plan, a recommendation to a participant to rollover his or her benefits was a standalone recommendation and therefore did not satisfy the regular basis prong of the 5-part test.

The re-interpretation tried to connect the recommendation to the plan (that is, for the participant to rollover to an IRA) to subsequent investment advice to the rollover IRA and, in that way, to conclude that the rollover recommendation was part of a regular basis advice arrangement. However, the Court held that the “regular basis” test is applied separately to the plan and the IRA and advice to the two could not be connected.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #58

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

This series focuses on the DOL’s new fiduciary “rule”, which was effective on February 16. This, and the next several, articles look at the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) issued by the DOL to explain the fiduciary definition and the exemption for conflicts of interest.

Key Takeaways

  • This article looks at a DOL FAQ that explains the DOL’s interpretation of the “mutual understanding” and “primary basis” parts of the 5-part test.
  • The new fiduciary “rule”—Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 2020-02–has two parts. One part is the expanded interpretation of the definition of fiduciary advice (in the preamble to the PTE).
  • The expanded interpretation is just that—a broadening of the 5-part test in a 1975 regulation. The new interpretation dramatically changes the landscape of advice to participants (particularly for rollovers) and to IRA owners.
  • The combination of these interpretations (together with the “regular basis” interpretation) make it increasingly difficult to avoid fiduciary status for advice to retirement plans, participants and IRA owners where the financial relationship is ongoing

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 retirement plans, participants and IRA owners (“retirement investors”). In addition, the DOL announced, in the preamble to the PTE, an expanded definition of fiduciary advice, meaning that many more financial institutions and investment professionals will be fiduciaries for their recommendations to retirement investors and, therefore, will need the protection provided by the exemption.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #57

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

This series focuses on the DOL’s new fiduciary “rule”, which was effective on February 16. This, and the next several, articles look at the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) issued by the DOL to explain the fiduciary definition and the exemption for conflicts of interest.

Key Takeaways

  • The new fiduciary “rule”—Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 2020-02–has two parts. One part is the expanded interpretation of the definition of fiduciary advice (in the preamble to the PTE).
  • The expanded interpretation is just that—a broadening of the 5-part test in a 1975 regulation. The new interpretation dramatically changes the landscape of advice to participants (particularly for rollovers) and to IRA owners.
  • This article looks at a DOL FAQ that discusses the “regular basis” part of the 1975 regulation and explains how it reverses the prior DOL position–and how that change means that many, if not most, rollover recommendations will be fiduciary advice subject to ERISA’s prudent man rule.

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 retirement plans, participants and IRA owners (“retirement investors”). In addition, the DOL announced, in the preamble to the PTE, an expanded definition of fiduciary advice, meaning that many more financial institutions and investment professionals will be fiduciaries for their recommendations to retirement investors and, therefore, will need the protection provided by the exemption.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #39

Investment Adviser Considerations: The Department of Labor’s Prohibited Transaction Exemption and Its Impact on Recommendations to Plans, Participants and IRAs (Part 4)


On December 18, 2020, the DOL issued its final prohibited transaction exemption (PTE) that will allow conflicted compensation resulting from nondiscretionary fiduciary investment advice. The PTE is titled “Improving Investment Advice for Workers & Retirees.” The citation is Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2020-02. (https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-07-12/pdf/2019-12208.pdf) The exemption became effective on February 16, 2021.

The exemption and the associated expansion of the definition of fiduciary advice will have the greatest impact on recommendations by investment advisers and broker-dealers (1) to retirement plan participants to take rollovers to IRAs with the advisors, and (2) to IRA owners about how to invest in their IRAs. My last article, Best Interest #38, discussed the impact on investment advisers who recommend rollovers. This article covers the impact on investment advisers for their services to IRAs and related conflicts of interest.

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