With a New Administration, Will the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule Once Again be Revised?

The Department of Labor’s (the “DOL”) attempts to regulate the conduct of fiduciaries under ERISA and the Code has been mired in controversy.  In 2010, the Obama administration’s DOL proposed a fiduciary regulation that was met with so much criticism that it was subsequently withdrawn in 2011.  In 2015, the DOL re-proposed a fiduciary regulation that imposed a fiduciary standard on financial advisors giving clients advice about their retirement plan investments.  The DOL issued final regulations and the final rule was being implemented when it was struck down by a federal appeals court in June 2018.

In June 2020, the DOL proposed a new fiduciary rule which significantly revises the Obama administration fiduciary rule.  Read More ›

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Final DOL Rule Imposes Fiduciary Limitations on Social Investing

The DOL recently issued a final rule (“Rule”) providing guidance on the long-standing issue of whether ERISA fiduciaries are permitted to consider non-pecuniary factors while making investments (or selecting investment funds) that promote one or more environmental, social or corporate governance goals (so called “ESG Investments”).  The preamble to the Rule acknowledges that ERISA fiduciaries must act solely in the interest of plan participants/beneficiaries and that courts have consistently interpreted this interest to refer to pecuniary, rather than non-pecuniary benefits.

Prior DOL ESG Investment guidance also required ERISA fiduciaries to place financial returns over other non-financial goals and prohibited a fiduciary from subordinating the interests of participants/beneficiaries in their retirement income to “unrelated objectives.”  However, the DOL previously stated that, when comparing ESG and non-ESG investments, if the financial returns were comparable, it was not a breach of fiduciary duty to select the ESG Investment.  Read More ›

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Department of Labor Issues Final Electronic Disclosure Rule

On May 21, 2020, the Department of Labor (the “DOL”) announced a final rule establishing a new electronic disclosure safe harbor.  The new safe harbor permits retirement plan administrators to deliver certain plan documents by one of two methods: (1) a “Notice and Access” method; or (2) a direct email method.  The new safe harbor is unavailable to health and welfare plans.  The regulatory electronic delivery safe harbor established by the DOL in 2002 is not superseded by the new safe harbor and is still available as an option for plan sponsors.  A brief summary of the new safe harbor follows. Read More ›

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Potential $2.4 Billion and Countless Trees Saved – Department of Labor’s Proposed Rule on Electronic Disclosure for Retirement Plans

The Department of Labor recently issued a proposed rule that allows certain retirement plan disclosures to be posted online, rather than requiring such disclosures to be printed and mailed. The Department of Labor anticipates this rule, if finalized, would save plan sponsors $2.4 billion over the next ten years. The rule is currently in proposed form and will not become effective until 60 days after the final rule is published. As such, plan sponsors may not rely on this proposed rule now.

Current Electronic Disclosure Requirements

In 2002, the Department of Labor issued a safe harbor for the use of electronic media. Read More ›

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DOL Finalizes Regulations Requiring Electronic Filing of Top Hat Statements

On June 17th the Department of Labor finalized a set of proposed regulations requiring that all “top hat” plan statements be filed with the Department electronically though this website.  As brief background, a “top hat” statement is a one-time filing made with the Department of Labor to protect against a non-qualified plan established for a select group of management or highly compensated employees becoming subject to some of the more onerous requirements of ERISA.  Accordingly, to maintain this protection, effective August 16, 2019, “top hat” filings must be made electronically.

The Department introduced the proposed regulations on the electronic filings in September 2014 and has indicated that since the release of the proposed regulations 54% of the “top hat” filings received have been made electronically.  Read More ›

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Authorized Representatives – Fresh Look at an Old Rule

Earlier this year, the Department of Labor issued an information letter explaining ERISA’s authorized representative requirement.  Below are some of the takeaways employers may want to consider.

1.     The Authorized Representative Requirement Under ERISA

ERISA’s claims procedure regulations expressly give participants and beneficiaries the right to appoint authorized representatives to act on their behalf in connection with a claim for benefits and an appeal of an adverse benefit determination.  Furthermore, when a claimant clearly designates an authorized representative to assist with a claim and/or appeal, the plan should direct the claimant’s information and notifications to the authorized representative to act on behalf of the claimant. Read More ›

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New Disability Claims Regulations Take Effect for All Plans April 1, 2018

As noted in our previous blog post, The New Disability Claims Regulations: They Don’t Only Apply to Disability Plans, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued regulations that revise the ERISA claims procedure regulations for all employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits (the “New Regulations”).  These rules can impact not only short-term and long-term disability plans but also qualified retirement plans (e.g., a 401(k) plan), nonqualified retirement plans, and health and welfare plans.  The New Regulations were published in the Federal Register on December 19, 2016, and are based on the Affordable Care Act’s enhanced claims and appeals regulations for group health plans.  Read More ›

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Recent Mental Health Parity Guidance — A Good Reminder to Review Your Health Plan for Compliance

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (“MHPAEA”) generally requires that the financial requirements and treatment limitations that apply to mental health and substance use disorder (“MH/SUD”) benefits cannot be more restrictive than the financial requirements and treatment limitations that apply to medical and surgical (“M/S”) benefits.  Financial requirements include, for example, deductibles and coinsurance.  Treatment limitations can be quantitative (e.g., limits on the number of days or visits covered under the plan) or non-quantitative (“NQTL”) (e.g., requiring participants to obtain prior authorization before treatment).

The MHPAEA and its implementing regulations also require plan administrators to provide various disclosures upon request regarding MH/SUD benefits.  Read More ›

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Fiduciary Rule to Go Into Effect but DOL Provides Temporary Non-Enforcement Policy

As reported in our April 18th blog, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) officially delayed the applicability of the Fiduciary Rule for 60 days, until June 9, 2017.  Given the multiple delays leading up to the proposed June 9th date and President Trump’s February 3rd executive memorandum calling for a full examination of the impact of the Fiduciary Rule, some questioned whether the Rule would be further delayed.  However, on Monday, DOL Secretary Alexander Acosta wrote the DOL has “found no principled legal basis to change the June 9 date while we seek public input” and “[r]espect for the rule of law leads us to the conclusion that this date cannot be postponed.”  

Although the new definition of the term “fiduciary” will become applicable on June 9th, certain provisions of the Rule will be phased in over time, with a full compliance date scheduled for January 1, 2018.  Read More ›

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The Official Delay of the Fiduciary Rule: A Compromise

On April 7, 2017, the DOL published a final rule, officially delaying the applicability of the Fiduciary Rule for 60 days, until June 9, 2017.

The DOL noted that a full review of the Fiduciary Rule and its impact is likely to take longer than 60 days. However, the DOL expressed reservations about providing a more extended delay of the application of the Rule, given the Department’s prior findings of harm to retirement investors.  Consequently, the final rule on the delay results in somewhat of a compromise.

Specifically, the DOL extended the applicability date for the Fiduciary Rule, the BIC Exemption, and the Principal Transactions Exemption for 60 days. Read More ›

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