In late June, the U.S. Department of Labor reinstated the previous definition of “fiduciary investment advice” that was contained in its prohibited transactions rules prior to 2017. That definition was amended by the “Fiduciary Rule” that went into effect in 2017, but the new rule was ultimately struck down by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Because the DOL interprets the Fifth Circuit’s decision to have reinstated the original rule, it dispensed with the normal comment period and made the new rule effective immediately.
The original (now reinstated) definition was passed in 1975 and was applied consistently by the DOL and IRS until the 2017 Fiduciary Rule became effective, albeit temporarily. The reinstated definition, being much narrower than the definition under the Fiduciary Rule, means that many fewer situations between plans and investment advisers will constitute “fiduciary investment advice” compared to the 2017 Fiduciary Rule and, consequently, the risk of engaging in a prohibited transaction is smaller.