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A Rollover Recommendation Is a Securities Recommendation

Key Takeaways

    • The Department of Labor considers a rollover recommendation to be a recommendation to liquidate the investments in a participant’s 401(k) account or to transfer (and change) securities.
    • In addition, as explained in earlier articles, the DOL considers a plan-to-IRA rollover to be a change of account type, e.g., from a 401(k) account to an IRA account.
    • The SEC and FINRA are in alignment with the DOL’s position that a recommendation to roll over is, in effect, a securities recommendation, e.g., to liquidate the investments in the 401(k) account and rollover cash (since 401(k) plans almost never transfer the plan’s investments to an IRA and in some cases, it would not be legally permissible, e.g., collective investment trusts, CITs).
    • This may explain why the DOL, SEC and FINRA all expect broker-dealers and investment advisers to have information about the investments held in a participant’s account, that is, how can a “sell” recommendation be made without knowing the investments that the recommendation covers.

In the preamble to PTE 2020-02, the DOL explained its view that:

 A recommendation to roll assets out of a Title I Plan is necessarily a recommendation to liquidate or transfer the plan’s property interest in the affected assets and the participant’s associated property interest in plan investments.35 Typically the assets, fees, asset management structure, investment options, and investment service options all change with the decision to roll money out of a Title I Plan. Moreover, a distribution recommendation commonly involves either advice to change specific investments in the Title I Plan or to change fees and services directly affecting the return on those investments.

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