This is a 48^{th} 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 Department of Labor has announced that it will not further delay the application of the fiduciary rule. As a result, the new fiduciary definition and the “transition” exemptions will apply to investment and insurance advice to plans, participants and IRA owners (“Retirement Investors” of “qualified accounts”) on June 9.
When the DOL announced its decision, it also issued additional guidance, in the form of FAQs and a non-enforcement policy.
For the most part, the FAQs were helpful.
For example, they clarify that certain types of information and conversation are educational, rather than fiduciary. However, FAQ #6 appears to have increased the compliance burden on “Financial Institutions,” such as broker-dealers, RIAs, banks and insurance companies. While the general rule for conflicted advice is that the Financial Institution and adviser must adhere to the Impartial Conduct Standards (see below), that Q&A said that Financial Institutions have additional responsibilities to manage conflicts so that variable compensation does not influence advisers to make recommendations that are not in the best interest of Retirement Investors.
The non-enforcement policy (Field Assistance Bulletin [FAB] 2017-02) provides that the DOL will not enforce the fiduciary standard or the exemptions during the transition period (from June 9 to December 31), so long as the Financial Institution is making diligent and good faith efforts to comply. However, the failure to make diligent and good faith efforts to comply will result in the loss of the benefit of the non-enforcement policy. Also, the IRS and Treasury will not enforce the fiduciary advice prohibited transactions during the transition period, so long as the requirements of the DOL non-enforcement policy are met.
What does this mean?
It means that, beginning on June 9, recommendations of investment or insurance products or services to qualified accounts must be evaluated two ways.
1. Is the recommendation prudent and loyal?
Recommendations to ERISA-governed retirement plans and participants (including rollover recommendations) are subject to ERISA’s prudent man rule and duty of loyalty. ERISA protections apply and claims can be asserted based on breaches of the fiduciary rule.
However, IRAs (other than SEPs and SIMPLEs) are not governed by ERISA and, therefore, the fiduciary standard does not automatically apply (but see the prohibited transactions discussion below).
2. Does the recommendation result in a prohibited transaction and, if so, are the conditions of an exemption satisfied?
Simply stated, any fiduciary recommendation that results in a payment from a third party (such as a mutual fund or an insurance company) or increases the compensation of the adviser or Financial Institution is a prohibited transaction. As a result, an exemption will be needed. The two most common exemptions are 84-24 (which applies to annuities and insurance products) and BICE (which applies to all types of investments and services, including insurance products). Both require that the adviser adhere to the Impartial Conduct Standards. (However, 84-24 has other requirements, including disclosure compensation and written approval by the Retirement Investor.)
This article focuses on transition BICE, since that exemption will be used in most cases.
As explained above, BICE requires that the Financial Institution and adviser adhere to the Impartial Conduct Standards. There are three such standards:
The Best Interest standard of care (which is, in its essence, a combination of ERISA’s prudent man rule and duty of loyalty).
The Financial Institution and the adviser can receive no more than reasonable compensation.
The adviser and Financial Institution cannot make materially misleading statements.
Since one of the conditions of BICE is that the Financial Institution and the adviser adhere to the Best Interest standard of care, the exemption effectively imposes a fiduciary standard of care. In other words, if the Financial Institution and adviser do not satisfy the fiduciary standard, the exemption will be lost and any compensation paid to the Financial Institution and adviser must be restored to the investor’s account. As a result, even though IRAs are not subject to ERISA’s prudent man rule, the exemption has the same effect as if advice to IRAs were subject to ERISA.
Financial Institutions (including broker-dealers, RIAs, banks and trust companies, and insurance companies) need to institute policies and procedures for compliance with these rules, including training of their representatives about how to satisfy the duties of prudence and loyalty.
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 24 - Differential Compensation Based on Neutral Factors: Interesting Angles on DOL’s Fiduciary Rule #24
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