Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New 408(b)(2) Regulations Released

In February of 2009 we sent out to you a notification (see below) regarding the White House’s decision to put on hold on all proposed regulations while the administrations were in transition. As you are aware, one of those regulations was the proposed 408(b)(2) amendments dealing with Fee Disclosure, Conflicts of Interest and Prohibited Transactions. In case you were not yet aware, this past Friday, July 16, 2010 the DOL released an “interim final regulation” under ERISA Section 408(b)(2) which will be effective on July 16, 2011.

After reviewing this new “Interim Final regulation”, in my view, these are some of the more important points.

1.) Written Disclosure instead of formal written contract or arrangement. This means that for all plans, the contracts in place now will not have to be amended or re-written, but rather a written notice should be sufficient.

2.) Clarified what it covers – Covers All Qualified DC/DB Pension Plans.

a. ERISA 403(b), 401(k), DB and Profit Sharing Plans are included.
b. SIMPLE IRAs, SEPs, IRAs, Non-ERISA 403(b), 457(b) and 457(f) are not included.

3.) There are now ‘Out Clauses’.
a. There is now a De minimis exemption for provider’s whose annual compensation is less than $1,000
b. There is also a “good faith” exception for providers who make a disclosure error as long as it acted in good faith and corrects the issue within 30 days of discovery.

4.) Conflict of Interest disclosures have been substantially reduced. The prior rule required explicit identification of all conflicts of interest. Instead, the DOL is relying on the compensation disclosure rules to address the issue. In other words, it is on the Plan Sponsor to identify the conflict based on following the money trail…..

5.) Fiduciary Status Disclosure – the new rule requires that only one reasonably expecting to be serving as a fiduciary or RIA clearly says so. The old rule required you to state in writing if you were or a fiduciary or were a not a fiduciary. This brings up the old issue of functional fiduciaries whose Broker Dealers do not allow them to serve as fiduciaries, thus the conduct of the rep is in conflict with their contract with the plan. Under these new rules, the registered rep must state if they are a fiduciary, and if their contract with the plan states otherwise, is that contract reasonable? This could be interpreted as a Rule 4975 Prohibited Transaction. See this article on The Broker’s Dilemma from 2008, for the full issue at hand.

For a complete interpretation of the new regulation and the practical impact of it, please link to the article by Pete Swisher entitled, ‘What the DOL’s New 408b-2 Rule Means”.

If you are looking for a more concise view of the main differences between what the previously proposed rules were vs. the important changes, please see this Bulletin published by Fred Reish and Bruce Ashton of Reish & Reicher by clicking here.

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