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Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #51: Recommendations to Transfer IRAs

This is 51st article about interesting observations concerning the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and exemptions. These articles also cover the DOL’s FAQs interpreting the regulation and exemptions and related developments in the securities laws.

The new fiduciary regulation includes, among its definitions of fiduciary advice, a recommendation to an IRA owner to transfer the IRA from another firm. As a result, the recommendation, if accepted by the IRA owner, will automatically result in a prohibited transaction. That is because, if the recommendation is accepted and the IRA is transferred, the adviser will obviously make more money than if it were not. That is a financial conflict of interest that is a prohibited transaction under the Internal Revenue Code.

Fortunately, there is an exemption, or exception, called the Best Interest Contract Exemption (BICE). However, BICE comes with conditions . . . the adviser and his or her supervisory entity (typically a broker-dealer or RIA firm) must comply with the Impartial Conduct Standards. There are three Impartial Conduct Standards:

  • The adviser (and the supervisory entity) must adhere to the best interest standard of care (which includes the duties of prudence and loyalty).

  • Neither the adviser nor the supervisory entity can receive more than reasonable compensation.

  • The adviser and the supervisory entity must not make any materially misleading statements.

This article looks at the requirement to engage in a best interest process.

The first step of a best interest, or prudent process, is to determine the information that is “relevant” to making a decision that is “informed.” In other words, what would a person who is knowledgeable about such matters, and who is unbiased and loyal to the IRA owner, want to review in order to develop a recommendation? Unfortunately, there aren’t any specific guidelines in the fiduciary regulation or BICE. However, it seems reasonable to conclude that, at the least, the following would be required in most cases:

  • The investments, services and expenses in the current IRA.

  • The investments, services and expenses available in the IRA that the adviser will recommend.

  • The needs, objectives, risk tolerance and financial circumstances of the IRA owner.

In the typical case, that may be enough. However, in some cases, there may be special circumstances that would require considerations of additional factors.

Once those considerations have been identified, the next step is to gather the information; that documentation should be retained in retrievable fashion in the event of SEC or FINRA examinations, IRS audits, or private claims.

The next step is to analyze the information. For example, if the investments and the expenses are similar for both the current IRA and a new IRA, the key is to consider the services in light of the needs and circumstances of the IRA owner. With that in mind, in this new fiduciary world, advisers and their supervisory entities should focus on the services that they will provide to retirement money, such as Individual Retirement Accounts. Generally speaking, the investment of retirement money (at least, based on guidance from the Department of Labor) involves considerations of generally accepted investment theories—such as modern portfolio theory, and of prevailing investment industry standards. Ordinarily, that would include strategies such as asset allocation, diversification among and within asset classes, portfolio construction, and so on. Those are “services” that are consistent with the best interest standard of care and that could justify a prudent, or best interest, recommendation to transfer an IRA.

The considerations listed in this article are not exclusive. There are many other factors that could reasonably be considered in developing a recommendation to transfer an IRA. The key, though, is that the appropriate documentation be gathered, a thoughtful analysis be made, and the recommendation be prudent and loyal.

The best interest fiduciary process is a new way of looking at everyday transactions and making recommendations about those transactions. It’s important for advisers to realize that it’s not just a compliance issue; instead, it’s a process . . . a thoughtful, documented, best interest process.

Part 1- Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #1

Part 2 - Best Interest Standard of Care: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #2 

Part 3 - Hidden Preamble Observations: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #3

Part 4 - TV Stock Tips and Fiduciary Advice: Interesting Angles #4

Part 5 - Level Fee Fiduciary Exemption: Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #5

Part 6 - Fiduciary Regulation And The Exemptions: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #6

Part 7 - Fiduciary Regulations And The Exemptions : Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #7

Part 8 - Designated Investment Alternatives: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #8

Part 9 - Best Interest Standard and the Prudent Man Rule: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #9

Part 10 - FINRA Regulatory Notice: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #10

Part 11-ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #11

Part 12- Potential Prohibited Transactions: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #12

Part 13-Investment Policies: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #13

Part 14- Investment Suggestions: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #14

Part 15- Best Interest Contract Exemption: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #15

Part 16 - Adviser Recommendations: Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #16

Part 17 - Level Fee Fiduciary: Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #17

Part 18- Best Interest Contract Exemption and IRA Advisor Compensation: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #18

Part 19- Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #19: Advisors' Use of "Hire Me" Practices.

Part 20- Three Parts of "Best Interest Standard of Care": Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #20

Part 21- Retirement Plan Documentation and Prudent Recommendation: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #21

Part 22-Banks and Prohibited Transactions: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #22

Part 23-Prohibited Transactions: IRA and RIA Qualified Money: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #23

Part 24 - Differential Compensation Based on Neutral Factors

Part 25-Reasonable Compensation Versus Neutral Factors: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #25

Part 26- Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #26- Reasonable Compensation for IRAs: When and How Long?

Part 27 - Definition of Compensation

Part 28 - What About Rollovers that Aren’t Recommended?: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #28

Part 29- Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #29- Capturing Rollovers: What Information is Needed?

Part 30- Three Kinds of Level Fee Fiduciaries . . . and What’s A “Level Fee?”: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #30

Part 31 - Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #31: “Un-levelizing” Level Fee Fiduciaries

Part 32 - What “Level Fee Fiduciary” Means for Rollover Advice: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #32

Part 33- Discretionary Management, Rollovers and BICE: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #33

Part 34- Seminar Can Be Fiduciary Act: Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #34

Part 35- Presidential Memorandum on Fiduciary Rule: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #35

Part 36 -Retirement Advice and the SEC: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #36

Part 37 - SEC Retirement-Targeted Examinations: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #37

Part 38- SEC Examinations of RIAs and Broker-Dealers under the ReTIRE Initiative: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #38

Part 39- FINRA Regulatory Notice 13-45: Guidance on Distributions and Rollovers: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #39

Part 40 - New Rule, Old Rule - What Should Advisers Do Now?: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #40

Part 41 - While We Wait: The Current Fiduciary Rule and Annuities: Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #41

Part 42 - Rollovers under DOL’s Final Rule: Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #42

Part 43 - BICE Transition: More Than the Eye Can See - Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #43

Part 44 - Basic Structure of Fiduciary Package (June 9): Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #44

Part 45 - DOL Fiduciary “Package”: Basics on the Prohibited Transaction Exemptions: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #45

Part 46 - How Does an Adviser Know How to Satisfy the Best Interest Standard?: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #46

Part 47- “Real” Requirements of Fiduciary Rule: Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #47

Part 48- The Last Word: The Fiduciary Rule Applies on June 9- Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #48

part 49 - The Requirement to Disclose Fiduciary Status: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #49

 

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About this Author

Fred Reish, Partner, Drinker Biddle,  Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation
Partner

C. Frederick Reish is a partner in the firm's Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Practice Group, Chair of the Financial Services ERISA Team and Chair of the Retirement Income Team.  His practice focuses on fiduciary issues, prohibited transactions, tax-qualification and DOL, SEC and FINRA examinations of retirement plans and IRA issues.

Fred's experience includes advising insurance companies and investment managers of the development of products and services that are consistent with ERISA's...

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