EBSA Updates Guidance On Fee Disclosure Requirements For 401(k) Plan Brokerage Window Arrangements


U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration recently clarified its guidance about  how its  rules affect 401(k) plan brokerage window arrangements in response to public feedback. Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2012-02R published July 30, 2012, modifies and replaces Q&A 30 of Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2012-02 (issued May 7, 2012) with a new Q&A 39.

EBSA’s final fee disclosure regulation[i] published on requires plan administrators to make to disclose specified information about retirement plan fees and expenses to participants and beneficiaries. The regulation requires plan administrators to give participants and beneficiaries more informationm about administrative and investment fees and expenses in their 401(k) plans.

EBSA issued Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2012-02, which provided guidance to its field enforcement personnel in question and answer format on the obligations of plan administrators under the fee disclosure regulation on May 7, 2012. In response to questions and concerns about statements in Question 30 regarding brokerage windows and other arrangements that enable plan participants and beneficiaries to select investments beyond those designated by the plan, EBSA issued Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2012-02 which supersedes Field Assistance Bulletin 2012-02 by modifying its provisions about brokerage windows and inviting more public comments for EBSA to use to consider further clarification of this guidance. 

As did its predecessor, Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2012-02R specifies that while the fee disclosure regulation covers “brokerage windows,” “self-directed brokerage accounts,” and other similar plan arrangements that enable participants and beneficiaries to select investments beyond those designated by the plan, its coverage of brokerage windows is limited to the disclosure requirements in paragraph (c) of the regulation relating to plan-related information. The disclosure requirements for investment-related information in paragraph (d) of the regulation do not apply to brokerage windows, self-directed brokerage accounts, and similar arrangements or to any investment selected by a participant or beneficiary that is not designated by the plan (i.e., any investments made through the window, account, or arrangement).

New Q-39 of Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2012-02R addresses when a plan offers an investment platform that includes a brokerage window, self-directed brokerage account, or similar plan arrangement but the fiduciary did not designate any of the funds on the platform or available through the brokerage window, self-directed brokerage account, or similar plan arrangement as “designated investment alternatives” under the plan, if the brokerage account platform or the brokerage window, self-directed brokerage account, or similar plan arrangement is a designated investment alternative for purposes of the regulation.  According to Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2012-02R, it is not.  According to the Field Assistance Bulletin, the regulation does not require that a plan have a particular number of “designated investment alternative” (DIA), and the Bulletin does not prohibit the use of a platform or a brokerage window, self-directed brokerage account, or similar plan arrangement in an individual account plan.  Rather, whether an investment alternative is a DIA for purposes of the regulation depends on whether it is specifically identified as available under the plan.

However Question 39 also cautions plan administrators and fiduciaries about the need to ensure other applicable ERISA obligations are fulfilled. Field Assistance Bulletin 2012-02R notes it does not change the 404(c) regulation or the requirements for relief from fiduciary liability under section 404(c) of ERISA or address the application of ERISA’s general fiduciary requirements to SEPs or SIMPLE IRA plans. Also, fiduciaries of such plans with platforms or brokerage windows, self-directed brokerage accounts, or similar plan arrangements that enable participants and beneficiaries to select investments beyond those designated by the plan are still bound by ERISA section 404(a)’s statutory duties of prudence and loyalty to participants and beneficiaries who use the platform or the brokerage window, self-directed brokerage account, or similar plan arrangement, including taking into account the nature and quality of services provided in connection with the platform or the brokerage window, self-directed brokerage account, or similar plan arrangement.  It also notes that that a 401(k) or other individual account plan fiduciary’s failure to designate investment alternatives to avoid investment disclosures under the regulation, raises questions under ERISA section 404(a)’s general statutory fiduciary duties of prudence and loyalty.

For Help or More Information

If you need help reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices to respond to emerging health plan regulations, monitoring or commenting on these rules, defending your health plan or its administration, or other health  or employee benefit, human resources or risk management concerns, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on cutting edge health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials concerning regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and registerto receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

For important information concerning this communication click here. THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

 Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

For important information concerning this communication click here. THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.


[i]See 75 FR 64910 (Oct. 20, 2010).

 

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Non-Exclusive License To Republish Granted To Solutions Law Press, Inc.  All Other Rights Reserved.

 

One Response to EBSA Updates Guidance On Fee Disclosure Requirements For 401(k) Plan Brokerage Window Arrangements

  1. […] EBSA Updates Guidance On Fee Disclosure Requirements For 401(k) Plan Brokerage Window Arrangements […]

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