Articles Tagged with ERISA

On March 15, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit elected, in a 2-1 decision, to vacate the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Fiduciary Rule (Chamber of Commerce of the U.S.A., et al. v. U.S. Dep’t of Labor, et al.).  In doing so, the Fifth Circuit overturned the Fiduciary Rule in its entirety, including its new definition of fiduciary advice under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1975 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code (Code), as well as the various new exemptions and revisions to existing exemptions that it features.  It is uncertain whether the DOL will request that the Fifth Circuit rehear the case, appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court, or do nothing.  The Fifth Circuit’s decision, however, has not deterred the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from continuing to discuss implementing its own fiduciary rule.

According to the Fifth Circuit’s majority opinion, the DOL exceeded its authority in adopting the new fiduciary investment advice definition in the Fiduciary Rule, finding the definition inconsistent with the plain text of ERISA and the Code. The Fifth Circuit also concluded that the DOL acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in, among other things, requiring people providing services to IRAs to sign a contract under the Best Interest Contract exemption in which they admit that they are fiduciaries and can be sued. Therefore, the Fifth Circuit concluded that “the Rule fails to pass the tests of reasonableness of the [Administrative Procedures Act].” Continue reading

The Department of Labor (DOL) recently released its first set of rolling FAQ guidance regarding its new rules expanding the definition of fiduciary investment advice under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (Code), adopting new prohibited transaction exemptions (PTEs), and amending certain previously existing PTEs. The DOL answered questions regarding the new PTEs and the amendments to existing PTEs under ERISA and the Code. The DOL also reaffirmed the applicability date of April 10, 2017, stating that this date provided adequate time for financial service providers to adjust to the rule changes.

One common area of confusion regarding the new rules was the extent to which the new Best Interest Contract (BIC) exemption would be available for use by discretionary investment managers. One of the conditions to use of the BIC exemption is that the fiduciary not have any discretionary authority or control with respect to the recommended transaction. This excludes a large portion of investment advisers that serve as discretionary investment managers. However, there are limited circumstances in which they can receive protection under the BIC exemption.

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In the wake of the re-proposal by the U.S. Department of Labor of its so-called “Fiduciary Rule,” there are a number of questions regarding how the rule if adopted, will impact those providing financial advice to employee benefit plans and other retirement plans including IRAs and ERISA plans in general. The most obvious impact of the rule would be to bring those not currently fiduciaries, including registered representatives of securities broker-dealers and the broker-dealer firms themselves, into the realm of fiduciary advice providers. The higher standard of care that would apply necessarily implies a need for more thorough disclosures of potential conflicts of interest, including incentivized compensation such as commissions, 12b-1 fees and the like.
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