Tag Archives: loyalty

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 SEC’s 2024 Examination Priorities: Impact on IRAs and Retirement Plans

Key Takeaways

  • The SEC Division of Examinations is focused on advice to older investors and retirement investors. Advisors and their firms should review their practices for those investors.
  • Among the concerns of the Division of Examinations is whether conflicts are adequately disclosed so that investors can provide informed consent. Off-the-shelf disclosures may not have sufficient information to pass that test.
  • The starting point for making an investment recommendation or providing investment advice is to develop a profile of the investor that considers the information relevant to the investor’s needs and circumstances. The information needed for the profile for retired investors may be different than for accumulation investors. Questionnaires and other information gathering materials should be reviewed to ensure their adequacy for purposes of investors who will regularly withdraw cash for lifelong retirement income from their accounts.

The SEC Division of Examinations recently released its 2024 Examination Priorities (2024-exam-priorities.pdf (sec.gov)). While the Priorities cover a range issues, this article focuses on the Priorities that could impact advice and recommendations by investment advisers and dual registrants (both referred to as advisors in this article)  to  retirement investors. “Retirement Investors” is DOL terminology for investors in retirement plans and IRAs. My interchangeable use of SEC and DOL language is justified by their shared interest in protecting people who are saving and investing for retirement and who are investing and spending in retirement.

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Investment Advisers: The Independent Duties of Care and Loyalty

Key Takeaways

  • Recent SEC guidance has clarified that the investment adviser duties of care and loyalty are separate, independent duties.
  • A reasonable interpretation of the SEC and Staff guidance is that the satisfaction of one will not satisfy the other–both must be individually satisfied.
  • As a result, the SEC appears to be saying that, even if a conflict is disclosed, that does not, in and of itself, satisfy the duty of care. For example, if an adviser discloses that the adviser will receive compensation related to an investment decision or recommendation, e.g., revenue sharing, but the revenue sharing share class of a mutual fund is more expensive for the investor, the duty of care may be violated even though the duty of loyalty was satisfied.

There appear to be conflicting views of whether an investment adviser’s duty of care can be satisfied by disclosures that satisfy the duty of loyalty. That is, if an adviser discloses the receipt of additional compensation from investments or service providers, can the adviser then recommend or select that investment even though it may be more expensive for the client?  In recent years, the SEC has issued guidance that seems to answer that question…and the answer appears to be “no.” Based on its 2019 Commission Interpretation Regarding Standard of Conduct for Investment Advisers, and the two 2022 SEC Staff Bulletins, the position of the SEC (and of the Staff) is that the duties of care and loyalty (together referred to as the duty to act in the best interest of investors) are separate and distinct, and that they each must be independently satisfied.

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