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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