Category: DOL Rules

Compensation Requirements under Proposed Amendments to PTE 2020-02

Broker-dealers and their registered representatives (advisors) providing services to private sector tax-qualified and ERISA-governed retirement plans, participants in those plans and IRA owners (collectively, Retirement Investors) are subject to a number of compensation rules.

ERISA’s fiduciary responsibility rules mandate that ERISA plans pay no more than reasonable compensation to service providers (including advisors).

In addition, the prohibited transaction rules that apply to Retirement Investors set limitations on compensation. For example, if a service provider receives compensation in excess of a reasonable amount, the excess is a prohibited transaction for both the plan fiduciary and the service provider. It is also a prohibited transaction if an advisor receives compensation that varies based upon the recommendation made (i.e., variable compensation) or third-party compensation as a result of the recommendation, unless a prohibited transaction exemption applies. Lastly, some prohibited transaction exemptions – like Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 2020-02 – have other limitations on compensation. This post focuses on the compensation limitations in the DOL’s proposed amendments to PTE 2020-02.

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The Proposed DOL Fiduciary Rule: Significant Changes for Advisers

Benefits and executive compensation partner Fred Reish and counsel Joan Neri coauthored an article for IAA Today on the proposed fiduciary rule issued by the Department of Labor (DOL).

The authors highlight key provisions of the proposal and the amendments to prohibited transaction exemption (PTE) 2020-02 that will potentially impact investment advisers. They also note that the next step is for the DOL to receive comments on the proposed changes and develop a final regulation, and they reasonably expect final rules in mid-year 2024.

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In Case You Missed It: Broker-Dealer Regulation & Litigation Digest – Winter 2023

The Broker-Dealer Regulation & Litigation Digest is a periodic compilation of the most read blog posts published on the Broker-Dealer Law Blog during the last few months. Here you can catch up on what you missed or re-read these popular posts.

The DOL’s New Fiduciary Rule: What We Can Expect

By Fred Reish and Joan M. Neri
The current Department of Labor fiduciary rule says that a broker-dealer and its registered representatives (advisors) are fiduciaries to a plan under ERISA if a functional five-part test is satisfied. This same five-part test applies to determining whether an advisor is a fiduciary to an IRA under the Internal Revenue Code.

You Might Want to Write Down Why You Recommended That Rollover

By Sandra D. Grannum, Jamie L. Helman and Emmanuel Brown
The Division of Examinations of the Securities and Exchange Commissions (the Division) has been busy implementing examinations of broker-dealers to assess compliance with the regulation. The Division is planning to include Reg BI compliance into future examinations of broker-dealers. Therefore, the Division issued a Risk Alert on January 30, 2023, calling attention to deficiencies found during broker-dealer compliance examinations, as well as certain inadequate practices that might lead to deficiencies. Broker-dealers should pay attention to the issues identified by the SEC so that they do not expose themselves to regulatory trouble later down the line.

Managing IRAs: Charging Different Fees for Different Investments

By Fred Reish and Joan M. Neri
Registered investment advisers, including dual registrant broker-dealers, who provide discretionary investment management services to individual retirement accounts (IRAs), are fiduciaries under the Internal Revenue Code (the Code). While the Code does not have a fiduciary standard of care, it does have a duty of loyalty in the sense that most conflicts of interest are prohibited.

Florida Court Decision’s Impact on Rollover Advice

Key Takeaways:

The Department of Labor (the DOL) expanded its interpretation of fiduciary advice in its guidance issued in connection with Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 2020-02. As a result, many more broker-dealers and registered representatives (advisors) became fiduciaries under ERISA and/or the Code for their recommendations to retirement investors, including rollover recommendations. Since fiduciary recommendations that result in transaction-based compensation are generally prohibited transactions, they will need the protection provided by complying with the conditions in PTE 2020-02.

A federal district court in Florida (American Securities Association (ASA) v. U.S. Department of Labor, Case No. 8:22-cv-330 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 13, 2023)) set aside the DOL’s expanded interpretation of fiduciary investment advice for rollover recommendations. At the time of writing this article, we do not know whether the DOL will appeal that decision.

However, the court did not change the regulatory definition of fiduciary advice and its application to advice to retirement plans or IRAs. Even if the expanded interpretation for rollover recommendations does not apply, where broker-dealers and their advisors provide ongoing advice to retirement investors they can still be fiduciaries for recommendations to IRA owners, plan fiduciaries and participants (and, in addition, under the DOL’s previous guidance can, in limited circumstances, still be fiduciaries for rollover recommendations). As a result, broker-dealers and their advisors will still need the relief provided by PTE 2020-02, including the best interest process it requires.

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The DOL’s New Fiduciary Rule: What We Can Expect

Key Takeaways:

The current DOL fiduciary rule says that a broker-dealer and its registered representatives (advisors) are fiduciaries to a plan under ERISA if a functional 5-part test is satisfied. This same 5-part test applies to determining whether an advisor is a fiduciary to an IRA under the Internal Revenue Code (the Code).

The DOL expanded its interpretation of fiduciary advice in the Preamble to PTE 2020-02 by re-interpreting one of the elements of that 5-part test. As a result, many more broker-dealers and their advisors are fiduciaries under ERISA and/or the Code for their recommendations to retirement investors, including rollover recommendations. While a recent decision by a Federal District Court in Florida set aside the DOL’s position on fiduciary status due to rollover recommendations, it did not change the 5-part test and its application to advice to retirement plans or IRAs. (We will discuss the impact of that holding on rollover recommendations in a future article.)

The DOL’s regulatory agenda indicates that in the near future, the DOL will be proposing a new fiduciary definition and proposing amendments to existing prohibited transaction exemptions (PTEs) to align with the proposed regulation. While we don’t know what the new regulation will say, we anticipate that, at the least, it will include the DOL’s expanded interpretation of fiduciary advice for rollovers (and might go beyond that). We also anticipate that many of the conditions in PTE 2020-02 will be included in the proposals for other exemptions, for example, in PTE 84-24.

Background

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Rollover Recommendations – Do the SEC and DOL Requirements Align?

Key Takeaways

The SEC and the DOL have separately issued guidance on rollover recommendations – however, a close examination indicates that the guidance by both agencies is very similar. The SEC’s guidance for broker-dealers is in Regulation Best Interest and a recent Staff Bulletin on account recommendations. The DOL’s guidance about rollover recommendations came in the form of an expanded interpretation of fiduciary advice found in the Preamble to PTE 2020-02 and a set of Frequently Asked Questions. These pieces of guidance share the following three principles: (1) a best interest standard, (2) a process to support that best interest standard that requires consideration of relevant factors about the investor, the investor’s current retirement account and the recommended rollover account, and (3) documentation supporting the basis for the recommendation.

There are a few differences between the SEC and the DOL guidance that broker-dealers and their registered representatives should know about, including that the SEC rollover guidance is applicable to a much broader array of retirement plans and accounts, and also that the SEC guidance does not require a disclosure about the best interest reasons for the rollover recommendation as does the DOL under PTE 2020-02.

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What Broker-Dealers Need to Know About Correcting PTE 2020-02 Mistakes

Key Takeaways

The DOL expanded its interpretation of fiduciary advice in the Preamble to PTE 2020-02 and as a result, many more broker-dealers and their registered representatives (investment professionals) are fiduciaries for their recommendations to retirement investors, including rollover recommendations. Therefore, they will need the protection provided by PTE 2020-02. The PTE contains a number of conditions and if those conditions are not met, a prohibited transaction will result.

The good news is that the PTE provides a self-correction process. Unfortunately, some conditions of the self-correction process are difficult to interpret and additional DOL guidance is needed.

To avoid these challenges, broker-dealers should implement good processes and documentation to satisfy the PTE conditions and closely supervise their investment professionals to ensure that the processes are followed.

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Compliance with PTE 2020-02: Mitigating Conflicts of Interest

Key Takeaways

  • PTE 2020-02 requires that financial institutions—such as broker-dealers—mitigate conflicts of interest “to the extent that a reasonable person reviewing the policies and procedures and incentives as a whole would conclude that they do not create an incentive for the firm or the investment professional to place their interests ahead of the interest of the retirement investor.
  • The DOL has issued FAQs that provide examples of mitigation techniques to reduce compliance risks in connection with compensation structures.
  • While there are a variety of mitigation techniques that can be used for different types of conflicts, the following two elements need to be part of mitigating every type of conflict: (1) an appropriate best interest process for developing the recommendation; and (2) supervision of the proper implementation of that process.

Background

The DOL’s prohibited transaction exemption (PTE) 2020-02 (Improving Investment Advice for Workers & Retirees), allows broker-dealers and their registered representatives (advisors) to receive conflicted compensation resulting from non-discretionary fiduciary investment advice to private sector tax-qualified and ERISA-governed retirement plans, participants in those plans, and IRA owners. (The PTE refers to those 3 classes of investors as “retirement investors.”) In addition, in the preamble to the PTE, the DOL announced an expanded definition of fiduciary advice, meaning that many more broker-dealers and their advisors are fiduciaries for their recommendations to retirement investors – including rollover recommendations – and therefore, will need the protection provided by the exemption.

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PTE 2020-02 Compliance: Avoiding Five Common Mistakes

It may be a New Year, but 2022 is going to seem very familiar to Broker-Dealers (BD) and their Registered Representatives who advise retirement plans and IRAs: they are going to be spending a lot of time working to comply with new exemptions and new ERISA rules coming from the Department of Labor (DOL). As some of these deadlines are right around the corner, in this post we’re going to review the five most common pitfalls and problems we’ve seen clients face, and how to better address them in disclosures and policies and procedures.

So what’s ahead this year regarding fiduciary advice and exemptions? First, DOL is working on a new proposed definition of ERISA fiduciary investment advice to replace the 1975 regulation, and could publish the new proposal for comments this spring. This proposal may also include changes to DOL’s new Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2020-02 (the PTE). If DOL succeeds in rewriting these rules, they likely will go into effect in 2023. That means the current rule and the current version of the PTE will likely remain in effect for the next 12-18 months.

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