The DOL Promulgates the Final Fiduciary Regulation

By Joseph A. Garofolo

On April 8, 2016, the Department of Labor promulgated a final regulation regarding ERISA’s definition of fiduciary.  The final regulation becomes applicable on April 10, 2017, and is available here.  

There were a number of changes between the proposed regulation published on April 20, 2015 and the final regulation.  The Department provided a chart summarizing changes made in response to the following issues raised in connection with the proposed regulation: the distinction between education and investment advice, the applicability of the regulation to health and welfare arrangements and appraisals, whether “hire me” recommendations are subject to ERISA’s fiduciary standards, the applicability of the Best Interest Contract Exemption (the “BICE”) (a class prohibited transaction exemption) to small plans and all asset classes, disclosure requirements under the BICE, the applicability of the contract requirement to ERISA plans and arrangements not subject to ERISA (including individual retirement accounts “IRAs”), the application of the regulation to call centers, web disclosure and data retention requirements, recommendations relating to proprietary products, lifetime income products, and level fee arrangements, fee-based account conversions, bias toward products with low fees, grandfather relief, and concerns regarding regulation implementation.  The Department’s chart is available here.

Finally,  on April 8, 2016, the Department promulgated the following exemptions relating to prohibited transactions under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended: i) the BICE (the Best Interest Contract Exemption); ii) Class Exemption for Principal Transactions in Certain Assets Between Investment Advice Fiduciaries and Employee Benefit Plans and IRAs; iii) Amendment to Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 75-1, Part V, Exemptions From Prohibitions Respecting Certain Classes of Transactions Involving Employee Benefit Plans and Certain Broker-Dealers, Reporting Dealers and Banks; iv) Amendment to and Partial Revocation of Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 86-128 for Securities Transactions Involving Employee Benefit Plans and Broker-Dealers; Amendment to and Partial Revocation of PTE 75-1, Exemptions From Prohibitions Respecting Certain Classes of Transactions Involving Employee Benefits Plans and Certain Broker-Dealers, Reporting Dealers and Banks; v)
Amendments to Class Exemptions 75-1, 77-4, 80-83 and 83-1; and vi) Amendment to and Partial Revocation of Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 84-24 for Certain Transactions Involving Insurance Agents and Brokers, Pension Consultants, Insurance Companies, and Investment Company Principal Underwriters.  These documents can be accessed here.

While the retirement plan community continues to analyze the final regulation and its related exemptions, it is safe to say that many investment advisers and participants will be affected by the significant changes made to the Department’s interpretation of “investment advice” as that phrase is used in ERISA § 3(21)(A)(ii).  

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