Published on *The National Law Review* (http://www.natlawreview.com)

Article By:

Fred Reish

This is my twenty-fourth article covering interesting observations about the fiduciary rule and exemptions.

The DOL’s fiduciary “package” consists of a regulation that expands the definition of advice and exemptions, or exceptions, from the prohibited transaction (PT) rules. If a recommendation by a fiduciary adviser does not constitute a PT (*e.g*., does not affect the adviser’s compensation, or that of an affiliate, and does not cause a payment from a third party), no exemption is needed. However, if the fiduciary recommendation causes a PT, an exemption must be used – and most often that will be BICE – the Best Interest Contract Exemption. Therein lies the rub . . . the compensation of the financial institution (*e.g*., the broker-dealer) and the adviser are regulated by BICE.

Under BICE, the compensation of broker-dealers can be “variable,” but must be “reasonable.” In other words, a broker-dealer can receive different payments from different product providers (*e.g.*, mutual funds), so long as the total compensation received by the broker-dealer is reasonable relative to the services provided to the particular plan, participant or IRA owner.

The rules for compensating advisers are similar because the compensation of the adviser also must be reasonable (relative to the services that the adviser is providing to the plan, participant or IRA owner in the first year and in succeeding years). But, from that point on, the rules are different.

The starting point for understanding the other rules for adviser compensation is to determine “reasonably designed investment categories.” A reasonably designed investment category is an investment product or service that, when properly analyzed, should produce a certain level of compensation for the adviser’s services. For example, non-discretionary investment advice about mutual funds probably involves a different set of services and complexity than investment advice about individual variable annuities. In that sense, each could be called a reasonably designed investment category.

The next step is to understand that, within a particular investment category, the adviser’s compensation must be level. For example, where an adviser is providing non-discretionary advisory services concerning mutual funds, the adviser’s compensation must be level regardless of which mutual funds are recommended or how much those mutual funds pay the broker-dealer. In that way, the adviser will be “financially agnostic” as to which funds are recommended and will, at least in theory, only be interested in recommending the funds that are the best for the qualified investor (*e.g*., reasonable priced and of good quality). Similarly, if another investment category covers individual variable annuities, the adviser will be paid the same regardless of the particular annuity contract, insurance company, or imbedded mutual funds. That is, the adviser’s compensation will be the same across all variable annuity contracts, regardless of which one is recommended.

But, what if some categories require more work or services than other categories? For example, what if it takes more work to recommend and service an individual variable annuity than to provide non-discretionary investment advice about mutual funds? In that case, the Department of Labor says that it is permissible to pay differential compensation among reasonably designed investment categories, so long as the differences are based on neutral factors. So, for example, if the amount of work, the complexity of the product, and so on, means that the services for a variable annuity are twice as valuable, the adviser could earn twice as much for recommending an individual variable annuity and assisting with the selection of the embedded investments. On the other hand, if the services for the variable annuity were only 50% more difficult each year thereafter, then the adviser could be compensated 50% more than the annual fee that could be paid for a qualified account with mutual funds.

The key to understanding these concepts is to realize that the “neutral factors” differential compensation is not a dollar amount. Instead, it is a ratio established, for both the first and each subsequent year, between the different categories of investments. Where the relative compensation to the adviser for different reasonably designed investment categories could vary according to those ratios, compensation must still be reasonable.

So, as described in this article, an individual adviser’s compensation must be “reasonable,” “level” within an investment category, and “neutral” in differences between investment categories.

It is going to be difficult and time-consuming for the financial services community to adjust to these changes. And, the deadline is April 10 (with an extension for some purposes until January 1, 2018).

*The views expressed in this article are the views of Fred Reish, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Drinker Biddle & Reath.*

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

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

Part 27 - Definition of Compensation: Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 80 - Enforceable During Transition?: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #80

Part 83 - Part 2 of Undisclosed (and Disclosed) 12b-1 Fees: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #83

Part 85 -The Fiduciary Rule: What’s Next (Part 1)? : Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #85

Part 86- The Fiduciary Rule: What’s Next (Part 2)?: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #86

Part 87 - The Fiduciary Rule: What’s Next (Part 3)?: Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #87

Part 88 -The Fiduciary Rule: What’s Next (Part 4)? : Interesting Angles on the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #88