U.S. Dept of Labor Requires Retirement Parties to Provide Recommendations Without Regard to Their Own Interests

April 18, 2016

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has finalized a controversial rule defining who a fiduciary of a retirement plan is under ERISA when investment advice is given. Generally applicable on April 10, 2017, the final rule requires parties that provide investment advice for a fee to plans, plan sponsors, fiduciaries, plan participants, beneficiaries, and IRA owners to make prudent investment recommendations without regard to their own interests. Importantly, the definition of retirement investment advice carves out “education” so advisers and plan sponsors can continue to provide general education on retirement saving across employment-based plans without triggering fiduciary duties. Although many retirement advisors will be newly subject to the fiduciary standards, a “Best Interest Contract Exemption” allows brokers and other investment firms to retain current forms of compensation as long as they mitigate the inherent risk of conflicts of interest and disclose such conflicts. The final rule is discussed in the Analysis and Guidance at ¶12,940 in the Benefits category under the “ERISA Requirements” topic. It also is noted in the Quick Answers at ¶12,730 under the “ERISA Requirements” topic, in the Quick Answers at ¶13,525 under the “Financial Services” topic, and in the Quick Answers at ¶16,983 and the Analysis and Guidance at ¶17,078 under the “Retirement Plans” topic — all located in the Benefits category.

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