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

This is my 29th 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.

The Department of Labor’s fiduciary regulation provides that a recommendation to take a distribution from a plan, and to roll the money over to an IRA, is a fiduciary act. As a result, the recommendation must be prudent and cannot result in a prohibited transaction. However, a prohibited transaction almost automatically occurs, since an adviser typically makes higher fees in the IRA than from the plan (even where the adviser is providing services to the plan). As a result, an exemption is needed, even if the recommendation is otherwise prudent. Fortunately, the Level Fee Fiduciary provision of the Best Interest Contract Exemption (BICE) provides the framework for qualifying for an exemption.

In addition to the fiduciary regulation and BICE, other rules regulate the recommendation of distributions. For example, in Regulatory Notice 13-45, FINRA stated that a recommendation to take a distribution from a plan must be “suitable.” (In effect, FINRA was saying that a recommendation to take a distribution from a plan is tantamount to a recommendation to a participant to liquidate the participant’s investments in the plan; therefore, it is a securities recommendation.) FINRA then provides a number of considerations for advisers to evaluate in making a suitable recommendation. Those factors and considerations are remarkably similar to the considerations in a prudent process under ERISA.

In addition to the FINRA guidance, the DOL issued an advisory opinion (2005-23A) that concluded that a fiduciary to a plan (for example, a fiduciary adviser) who makes recommendations to participants to take distributions and roll over to IRAs is a fiduciary for the purpose of these recommendations. As with the new regulation, that implicates the fiduciary standard of care and the prohibited transaction rules.

With that in mind, the general rule for the prudence of recommending a rollover (as opposed to the prohibited transaction issues) is that a fiduciary adviser engage in a prudent process. But, that begs the question . . . what does an adviser need to do? More specifically, a prudent process produces an “informed” and “reasoned” recommendation. A recommendation is “informed” if the adviser has gathered and evaluated the information that a knowledgeable person would consider to be relevant to the issue. A reasoned decision is one that bears a reasonable relationship to the information that was evaluated.

What are the relevant factors for evaluating whether a participant should take a distribution? In other words, what information does an adviser need to gather and review?

In BICE, the DOL identifies three specific types of relevant information about the retirement plan. (Note that there may be relevant factors in addition to these three, but the DOL is saying that a recommendation to take a distribution would, at the least, need to consider these.) Those factors are: the investments in the plan; the services provided by the plan; and the expenses in the plan. Examples of other relevant matters are whether the plan permits periodic distributions without charge, and whether the participant is invested in company stock in the plan (particularly if the participant has a low basis in the company stock compared to its current value). Those factors, and other relevant matters about the plan, need to be evaluated. Of course, that means that information needs to be obtained.

Where the adviser already provides services to a plan, it should be relatively easy to gather the information. However, if the adviser does not work with the plan, the adviser will need to make a diligent effort to gather that information. (The Department of Labor says in Question 14 of the FAQs that the adviser “must make diligent and prudent efforts to obtain information on the existing plan.” Question 14 goes on to say: “In general, such information should be readily available as a result of DOL regulations mandating plan disclosure of salient information to the plan’s participants (see 29 CFR 2550.404a-5).)”

In other words, the adviser should ask the participant for a copy of the plan’s 404a-5 disclosures (which are also known as participant disclosures and/or the Investment Comparative Chart). That should be readily available to a participant, since those materials are provided to participants when initially eligible and, again, each year thereafter. In addition, an adviser could ask a participant for his most recent quarterly statement, which should reflect any expenses being charged against the participant’s account, as well as how the participant is invested and the account balance. Those statements should also be readily available since, for participant-directed plans, they are provided quarterly.

In addition a participant would have access to materials through the participant’s page on the plan’s website.

In other words, the information is readily available. (Note that the FAQs provide alternative methods of obtaining the information, but only after the adviser has engaged in “diligent and prudent efforts to obtain information,” but has not been able to do so.)

In addition to the information about investments and expenses, an adviser also needs to obtain information about plan services. In many cases, that could be done through interviewing the participant. For example, does the plan have a brokerage account option? Does the plan provide non-discretionary investment advice services or discretionary investment management services? Once that information has been gathered, an adviser should compare it to comparable information about the proposed IRA. While the gathering of information, in and of itself, can take some work, the analysis is the critical step. The information is just the foundation from which to make the analysis.

The key to the analysis and the development of a prudent recommendation is to focus on the best interest of the participant. Also, keep in mind that BICE requires that the adviser document why the recommendation is in the best interest of the investor.

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 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

Part 50- Fourth Impartial Conduct Standard: Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #50

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

Part 52 - Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #52: The Fiduciary Rule and Exemptions: How Long Will Our Transition Be?

Part 53 - Fiduciary Rule and Discretionary Investment Management: Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #53

Part 54 - Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #54: The DOL’s RFI and Possible changes to BICE

Part 55- DOL’s RFI and Recommendation of Annuities- Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #55

Part 56-Recommendations of Contributions as Fiduciary Advice: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #56

Part 57- Relief from 408(b)(2) Requirement on Change Notice: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #57

Part 58- Recommendations to Contribute to a Plan or IRA- Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #58

Part 59- What Plans and Arrangements Are Covered by the Fiduciary Rule: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #59

Part 60- What the Tibble Decision Means to Advisers: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #60

Part 61- Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #61: The Fiduciary Rule, Distributions and Rollovers

Part 62 - Is It Possible To Be An Advisor Without Being A Fiduciary? - Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #62

Part 63-Policies and Procedures: The Fourth BICE Requirement - Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #63

Part 64 -What Does the Best Interest Standard of Care Require?-Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #64

Part 65- Unexpected Consequences of Fiduciary Rule - Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #65

Part 66- Concerns About 408(b)(2) Disclosures: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #66

Part 67- From the DOL to the SEC - Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #67

Part 68-Recommendations of Distributions - Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #68

Part 69- Compensation Risks for Broker-Dealers and RIAs: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #69

Part 70-Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #70: The Fiduciary Rule and Recordkeeper Services

Part 71- Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #71: Recordkeepers and Financial Wellness Programs

Part 72- Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #72 - The "Wholesaler" Exception

Part 73- Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #73: Recordkeeper Investment Support for Plan Sponsors

Part 74- Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #74: One More Fiduciary Issue for Recordkeepers

Part 75-Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #75-The Fiduciary Rule: Mistaken Beliefs

Part 76-Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #76-Discretionary Management of IRAs: Prohibited Transaction Issues for RIAs

Part 77-Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #77: The Fiduciary Rule: Mistaken Beliefs (#2)

Part 78-Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #78: The Fiduciary Rule: Mistaken Beliefs (#3)

Part 79-Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #79-The Fiduciary Rule: Mistaken Beliefs (#4)

©2018 Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. All Rights Reserved

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About this Author

Fred Reisch, Drinker Biddle Law Firm, Los Angeles, Labor and Employment Law Attorney
Partner

Fred Reish represents clients in fiduciary issues, prohibited transactions, tax-qualification and Department of Labor, Securities and Exchange Commission and FINRA examinations of retirement plans and IRA issues.

Fred works with both private and public sector entities and their plans and fiduciaries and represents plans, employers and fiduciaries before federal agencies such as the DOL and IRS. He consults with banks, trust companies, insurance companies and mutual fund management companies on 401(k) recordkeeping services, investment products and...

(310) 203-4047