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Fiduciary Duties

DOL Modifies Exemption for Loans Made to Plans

Many sponsors of employee benefit plans have found it necessary to lend money to a plan, as a way of easing a liquidity problem or otherwise facilitating the plan’s operation. Such loans have occurred in the context of failed insurance companies, other illiquid assets, or delays in the disbursement of distributions by plan trustees or custodians. Because a plan sponsor is a “party-in-interest,” however, such a loan constitutes a “prohibited transaction” under both ERISA and the parallel Tax Code provisions.

Are You Ready For SEC Redemption Fee Rules?

Market timing and other short-term trading patterns impose costs on mutual funds by disrupting management, forcing funds to maintain excessive liquidity, and driving up tax expenditures.

THE FIDUCIARY CORNER: Abdicating Duties Does Not Prevent Liability

When companies fail to remit 401(k) plan contributions, the Department of Labor almost always looks for – and usually finds – fiduciaries to hold responsible. Cases such as these often can be traced to financially troubled plan sponsors trying desperately to juggle the claims of competing creditors. Employee salary deferral contributions somehow become mixed with company cash, and thus delayed on their way to the trust account.

THE FIDUCIARY CORNER: Information Requests Should Be Honored–Promptly

Ignoring a participant’s request for copies of plan documents and SPDs is never a good idea. It is even less so when the participant has already filed a lawsuit against the plan sponsor or its fiduciaries, and when the letter comes from the participant’s attorney. A federal judge in Tennessee imparted this lesson to Nissan North America, Inc. in a decision earlier this year.

Minimal Employer Involvement May Create ERISA Plan

Yet another recent federal court opinion reminds us that ERISA plans – and thus ERISA obligations – may be created even when they are not intended. While an Ohio court was construing the “payroll practices” exemption from ERISA in the Langley case (see “What is in a Name? Not an ERISA Plan”), a court in Texas construed a similar exemption for “voluntary insurance arrangements,” and found it unavailable.

What Is In A Name? Not An ERISA Plan

A recent decision by an Ohio federal court illustrates an important distinction between two regulatory exemptions from ERISA’s definition of an “employee welfare benefit plan.”

THE FIDUCIARY CORNER: The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth

When ERISA fiduciaries speak, they must recognize that what they say, and how they say it, will be held to a higher standard than ordinary speech. This is because ERISA imposes special rules governing the manner in which information about benefits is communicated. Although courts disagree about the scope of this duty of disclosure, it is well established that communications must give participants information that is both accurate and sufficiently detailed to allow them to make informed decisions.

THE FIDUCIARY CORNER: Individual Financial Planners May Be ERISA Fiduciaries

An Advisory Opinion recently issued by the Department of Labor may come as quite a shock to many personal financial planners and investment advisors. According to the DOL, ERISA’s prudence, exclusive benefit, and prohibited transaction rules apply to many of the bread-and-butter recommendations that these professionals give, if their advice relates to assets held in qualified individual account plans.

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