Tag Archives: financial institution

The New Fiduciary Rule (32): The DOL’s Final PTE 2020-02

Key Takeaways

  • The DOL’s fiduciary regulation will be effective on September 23 of this year. As a result, beginning on September 23 one-time recommendations to retirement investors can be fiduciary advice and, where the advice is conflicted, the investment professional and financial institution will need the protection afforded by a PTE.
  • While some of the requirements (called “conditions”) of PTEs 2020-02 and 84-24 also become effective on September 23, others will not be effective until a full year later…September 23, 2025.
  • The PTE that must be used for all investment professionals and financial institutions—other than for independent insurance agents—is PTE 2020-02.
  • As a result, financial institutions need to be working on implementing the first part of the PTE’s requirements…so that compliant practices and disclosures are in place by September 23—just months from now.

On April 25, 2024, the Department of Labor published its final regulation defining fiduciary status for investment advice and the related exemptions—PTE 2020-02 and 84-24. The exemptions provide relief from prohibited conflicts and compensation resulting from fiduciary recommendations to “retirement investors”–private sector retirement plans, participants (including rollovers), and IRAs (including transfers and exchanges). The fiduciary regulation and exemptions will be effective on September 23, 2024, although compliance with some of the conditions in the exemptions will be further delayed.

Let’s look at the final of PTE 2020-02 and its effective dates.

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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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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #100: Liabilities and Opportunities

Key Takeaways

The DOL’s expanded definition of fiduciary advice is explained in the preamble to PTE 2020-02.

When conflicted fiduciary advice is given to retirement investors, that is, retirement plans, participants (including rollovers), and IRA owners (including transfers of IRAs), it results in prohibited transactions under the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA. The prohibited transaction is the compensation earned as a result of the fiduciary recommendation, e.g., the fees or commissions from a rollover IRA.

The PTE provides relief for the prohibitions resulting from conflicted non-discretionary recommendations. However, the relief is conditional, that is, it is only available if all of the PTE’s conditions are satisfied.

The compliance deadline was February 1, 2021 for most of the PTE’s conditions and July 1 for the one remaining condition–the requirement to provide retirement investors in writing with the “specific reasons” why a rollover recommendation is in their best interest.

As a result, the documentation and processes for compliance with PTE 2020-02’s conditions should now be completed. So, this is a good time to consider the liability issues and the opportunities created by the PTE.

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 (all of whom are referred to as “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.

Since a significantly increased number of recommendations to retirement investors will be fiduciary recommendations under the expanded fiduciary interpretation, and since many, if not most, of those recommendations will involve conflicts of interest, financial institutions and investment professionals will need to satisfy the “conditions” (or requirements) in the PTE. The 4 categories of those conditions are: (1) the Impartial Conduct Standards (including the best interest standard of care); (2) disclosures (including the “specific reasons”), (3) policies and procedures (include mitigation of conflicts), and (4) the annual retrospective review and report.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #99: The PTE 2020-02 Requirement for An Annual Retrospective Review

Key Takeaways

The DOL’s expanded definition of fiduciary advice is explained in the preamble to PTE 2020-02.

When conflicted fiduciary advice is given to retirement investors (that is, retirement plans, participants (including rollovers), and IRA owners (including transfers of IRAs), it results in prohibited transactions under the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA. The PTE provides relief for conflicted non-discretionary recommendations. However, the relief is only available if all of the PTE’s conditions are satisfied.

While much attention has been given to the conduct, disclosure and policies “conditions” for obtaining the relief provided by PTE 2020-02, there hasn’t been much discussion of the PTE’s “condition” that requires an annual retrospective review and report. This article discusses that requirement.

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 (all of whom are referred to as “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.

For example, a rollover recommendation will ordinarily be nondiscretionary fiduciary advice and result in a financial conflict of interest (i.e., the compensation earned from the rollover IRA) that is a prohibited transaction under both ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code. But, since the recommendation is nondiscretionary, PTE 2020-02 provides relief, but only if all of its conditions are met.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #98: How PTE 2020-02 Impacts Advice to IRAs

Key Takeaways

The DOL’s expanded definition of fiduciary advice to retirement plans, participants, and IRAs was described in the preamble to PTE 2020-02.

The PTE then provides relief for conflicted non-discretionary recommendations to retirement investors (for example, rollover recommendations), if its conditions are satisfied.

One of the conditions for relief is that a recommendation be in the best interest of the retirement investor (e.g., retirement plan, participant in a plan, or an IRA owner).

In addition, the PTE includes requirements, or “conditions”, that focus on conflicts of interest.

This article discusses the PTE’s coverage of advice to IRAs, including the conflicts issues.

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 (all of whom are referred to as “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.

The fiduciary regulations under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code have two definitions of fiduciary advice. The first is the obvious—where the investment professional and financial institution have discretion over the investments in retirement accounts. In effect, that is a one-part test: “discretion.” In addition, there is a 5-part test for non-discretionary fiduciary advice. The DOL did not amend the regulation to modify any of the “parts,” but instead reinterpreted some of the parts, and particularly the “regular basis” part, to significantly increase the number of investment professionals and financial institutions who are fiduciaries.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #97: The SEC Requirements for Rollover Recommendations

Key Takeaways

The DOL’s expanded definition of fiduciary advice is described in the preamble to PTE 2020-02.

When conflicted fiduciary advice is given to retirement investors (that is, retirement plans, participants (including rollovers), and IRA owners), it results in prohibited transactions under the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA. But the PTE provides relief for conflicted non-discretionary recommendations.

While most of the focus of the literature (and of these blog articles) about rollover recommendations has been on the DOL’s fiduciary interpretation and PTE 2020-02, the SEC has, for the most part, harmonized its best interest/fiduciary requirements for rollover recommendations with those of the DOL.

This article discusses the two-part harmony between the agencies, and the areas of disharmony.

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 (all of whom are referred to as “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.

For example, a rollover recommendation will ordinarily be nondiscretionary fiduciary advice and result in a prohibited transaction under both ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code (i.e., the compensation earned from the rollover IRA). But, since the recommendation is nondiscretionary, PTE 2020-02 provides relief, but only if its conditions are met.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #96: Annuity Recommendations, PTE 84-24, and Fiduciary Misunderstandings

Key Takeaways

The DOL’s expanded interpretation of fiduciary advice is described in the preamble to Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 2020-02. The expanded interpretation applies to all rollover recommendations, including recommendations to rollover into annuities.

A fiduciary rollover recommendation to rollover from an ERISA-governed retirement plan results in a conflict of interest, which is the compensation from the individual retirement account or annuity.

That conflict is a prohibited transaction under the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA. PTE 2020-02 provides relief from the prohibitions if its conditions are satisfied.

One of the conditions for an insurance company to use PTE 2020-02 is that the insurance company and the investment professionals (including insurance agents) both be fiduciaries for the recommendations. However, most insurance companies have determined that they do not have the close relationships with agents, and particularly independent agents, to satisfy the fiduciary requirements in the PTE. As a result, most insurance companies have decided that they will not use PTE 2020-02 for relief for themselves and their agents from the prohibitions of the Code and ERISA.

But, when agents make rollover recommendations covered by the DOL’s expanded fiduciary interpretation, they will engage in prohibited transactions and need relief from the resulting prohibited transactions. The alternative to 2020-02 is PTE 84-24.

However, PTE 84-24 has conditions that agents must satisfy, and there are emerging stories that many agents do not know that they can be fiduciaries and do not know about the relief provided by 84-24.

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 (including transfer recommendations)–all of whom are referred to as “retirement investors.” With regard to IRAs, the term includes both individual retirement accounts and individual retirement annuities. In addition, in the preamble to the PTE, the DOL announced an expanded interpretation 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.

While it appears that most broker-dealers, investment advisers, and banks and trust companies will be relying on, and complying with, the conditions in PTE 2020-02, the same cannot be said of most insurance companies. As a result, when insurance agents recommend rollovers to annuities, they need to consider whether they are fiduciaries under the DOL’s expanded interpretation and, if so, how to comply with PTE 84-24 in order to avoid a prohibited transaction for their compensation, i.e., the commission and any trailing payments.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #95: The Four Effective Dates for PTE 2020-02

Key Takeaways

The DOL’s expanded interpretation of fiduciary advice is described in the preamble to Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 2020-02.

When conflicted fiduciary advice is given to retirement investors (that is, retirement plans, participants (including rollovers), and IRA owners), it results in prohibited transactions under the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA. But the PTE then provides relief for conflicted non-discretionary recommendations. However, the relief is only available if all of the PTE’s conditions are satisfied.

The DOL’s fiduciary interpretation and the PTE and its requirements were not all effective at the same time, causing some confusion. This article discusses the four effective dates or, more appropriately, enforcement dates.

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 (including transfer recommendations)– all of whom are referred to as “retirement investors”. In addition, in the preamble to the PTE the DOL announced an expanded interpretation 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.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #94: Maintenance of Documentation for Compliance with PTE 2020-02

Key Takeaways

The DOL’s expanded definition of fiduciary advice is described in the preamble to PTE 2020-02.

When conflicted fiduciary advice is given to retirement investors (that is, retirement plans, participants (including rollovers), and IRA owners), it results in prohibited transactions under the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA. But the PTE then provides relief for conflicted non-discretionary recommendations. However, the relief is only available if all of the PTE’s conditions are satisfied.

While much attention has been given to the “conditions” for obtaining the relief provided by PTE 2020-02, there hasn’t been much discussion of the PTE’s requirements to retain documentation of compliance with those conditions. This articles discusses those requirements.

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 (all of whom are referred to as “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.

For example, a rollover recommendation will ordinarily be nondiscretionary fiduciary advice and result in a financial conflict of interest (i.e., the compensation earned from the rollover IRA) that is a prohibited transaction under both ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code. But, since the recommendation is nondiscretionary, PTE 2020-02 provides relief, but only if all of its conditions are met.

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Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #93: Correction of Failures to Satisfy PTE 2020-02

Key Takeaways

The DOL’s expanded definition of fiduciary advice is described in the preamble to PTE 2020-02.

When conflicted fiduciary advice is given to retirement investors (that is, retirement plans, participants (including rollovers), and IRA owners), it results in prohibited transactions under the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA. But the PTE then provides relief for conflicted non-discretionary recommendations. However, the relief is only available if all of its conditions are satisfied.

Unfortunately, we are already seeing that some broker-dealers and investment advisers have not fully complied with the exemption’s conditions, at least in connection with some of their recommendations.

That raises the question of “What are the consequences of those failures?” This article discusses the failures, corrections, reporting to the DOL, and inclusion of the failures in the annual retrospective review and report.

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 (all of whom are referred to as “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.

For example, a rollover recommendation will ordinarily be nondiscretionary fiduciary advice and result in a financial conflict of interest that is a prohibited transaction under both ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code. But, since the recommendation is nondiscretionary, PTE 2020-02 provides relief, but only if all of its conditions are met.

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