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Regulation

Proposed Rule for Outsourcing by Investment Advisers

The Securities and Exchange Commission is proposing a new rule under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 that would require registered investment advisers to satisfy specific requirements if they outsource certain services or functions. The Proposed Rule (Rule 206(4)-11) imposes due diligence and monitoring obligations for the engagement and retention of service providers and includes changes to Form ADV and to the recordkeeping requirements under Rule 204-2. Investment advisers should become familiar with the Proposed Rule to ensure timely compliance, if it is adopted.

Congress and Regulators Issue Welcome Deadline Relief for Group Health Plans

Sponsors of group health plans received welcome relief from Congress and regulatory agencies which should make health plan administration and reporting less burdensome. The relief comes in the form of a permanent extension of certain Affordable Care Act reporting deadlines, a temporary reprieve from new prescription drug reporting requirements, and a two-year continuation of the ability to offer telehealth and remote care services under HSA-compatible high deductible health plans.

Key Provisions of SECURE 2.0

Congress recently approved some of the most sweeping changes to retirement plans in decades. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 includes the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022. SECURE 2.0 makes numerous changes to qualified retirement plans, 403(b) plans, 457(b) plans, individual retirement accounts, and other employee benefits. The changes are designed to enhance access to retirement savings, preserve income, and lessen administrative burdens.

Employers will need to modify certain aspects of plan administration and make decisions about which optional plan provisions to adopt. This post provides an overview of the most relevant provisions of SECURE 2.0 and their effective dates. We will provide more detailed discussion of SECURE 2.0 and its implications in subsequent posts.

Happy Holidays! A Gift from the DOL

‘Tis the season for giving – and the Department of Labor just gave plan sponsors a gift. The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) recently announced its intent to update its Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP) to create a new self-correction process for correcting late remittances of participant deferrals and loan repayments to defined contribution plans.

Enforcement of Investment Advice Exemption – On The Horizon

Investment consultants and other service providers who advise plan participants and fiduciaries about rollovers and investment choices received another reprieve from new rules governing that advice.  But the reprieve is only temporary; those consultants and advisors must be prepared to comply by February 1, 2022.

Agencies Clarify Implementation Dates for Group Health Plan Transparency Rules

Regulations recently promulgated under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) and statutory requirements enacted under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (“CAA”) both include new transparency requirements applicable to group health plans. Unfortunately, however, there is substantial overlap and inconsistency among those twin transparency rules, creating confusion among plan sponsors and health care providers.  Guidance issued in August by the Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services attempts to resolve that confusion.

DOL Issues Cybersecurity Guidance

On April 14, 2021, the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (“EBSA”) issued cybersecurity guidance for retirement plan fiduciaries and service providers, as well as plan participants.  In the guidance, the EBSA states that ERISA fiduciaries are required to take appropriate steps to mitigate internal and external cybersecurity threats to plan participants and retirement plan assets.   To assist fiduciaries  and service providers in fulfilling this obligation, the EBSA issued two documents that describe cybersecurity best practices – Cybersecurity Program Best Practices and Tips for Hiring a Service Provider.  The EBSA also issued some basic rules – Online Security Tips – to help participants reduce the risk of fraud and loss to their retirement accounts.

Investment Advice Exemption Confirmed

On February 12, 2021, the Department of Labor issued a press release confirming that the new fiduciary investment advice guidelines under Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2020-02 will go into effect on February 16, 2021.  The Department also confirmed that the temporary enforcement relief provided by Field Assistance Bulletin 2018-02 will remain in place until December 20, 2021.

The Biden administration previously issued a memo to regulatory agencies suspending new regulations issued during the waning days of the Trump administration.  The purpose of the suspension is to provide the incoming administration with the opportunity to review those regulations.   As a result, there was some question whether the Exemption would become effective.

DOL Finalizes Fiduciary Investment Advice Guidance

On December 15, 2020, the Department of Labor finalized its new guidelines for fiduciary investment advice.  Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2020-02 both clarifies the circumstances under which financial institutions and investment professionals are considered “fiduciaries” under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code, and also establishes a new framework under which such fiduciaries may provide services and receive compensation.

The preamble to the final Exemption provides the Department’s long-awaited final interpretation of when investment advice – such as a recommendation to roll over retirement plan assets to an IRA (or between IRAs) – creates a fiduciary relationship under ERISA or the Code. The substantive terms of the Exemption allow investment advisers who are fiduciaries to receive compensation and engage in principal transactions that would otherwise violate prohibited transaction rules.

The Exemption applies to SEC- and state-registered investment advisers, broker-dealers, banks, insurance companies, and their employees, agents and representatives that are investment advice fiduciaries under the newly interpreted “five-part” test of fiduciary status.  It imposes certain conditions to protect the interests of retirement plans, participants, beneficiaries, and IRA owners.  The Exemption is set to become effective February 16, 2021, absent a delay by the Biden Administration.  Thus, employers will need to be aware of the Exemption and its conditions in their engagement of (and interactions with) plan service providers.

Extended Group Health Plan Deadlines Create Risks for Employers

Deadline relief afforded by a new DOL and IRS Joint Notice during the COVID-19 national emergency significantly changes the administration of both self-funded and fully insured group health plans. Some of the extended deadlines are already causing confusion and increasing compliance risks for employers.

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