19.07.2019 02.55 GMT+0000

The SEC’s new Regulation BI relies heavily on increased disclosure of conflicts of interest to protect investors. However, there is research indicating that, where an economic conflict exists increased disclosure makes things worse--not better. This research is worth considering as we assess the implications of these new rules.

Understanding the Impact of Disclosure

Understanding the Impact of Disclosure

Research indicates that disclosing conflicts of interest may not have the desired effects.

SEC rules to protect investors from brokers (with conflicting economic incentives) relies heavily on disclosure of these conflicts. However, some academic research raises questions about the impact of increasing disclosure where parties’ interest may conflict. Significantly, conflicted advisors may provide more biased advice (to offset the impact of the disclosure) and customers may not adequately assess or consider the nature of the conflict.

25.06.2019 05.38 GMT+0000

SEC Finalizes New Standards for Broker Dealers

SEC Finalizes New Standards for Broker Dealers

The SEC has adopted new rules for broker-dealers that expand disclosure requirements and require broker-dealer to act in the “best interest” of customers.

The SEC has finalized rules governing the behavior of broker-dealers. Under this rule broker dealers need to (i) provide investors with additional disclosure regarding fees, services and conflicts of interest and (ii) use care and diligence to develop a reasonable belief that a recommendation is in the “best interest” of the customer and not place the interest of the broker dealer “ahead of” the interest of the customer.

10.05.2019 04.29 GMT+0000

Awareness of Emerging Fiduciary Risk Grows

Awareness of Emerging Fiduciary Risk Grows

An article published in Benefits Quarterly by RetireAware’s Dan Alexander and Steinberg describes how retirement plan providers may exploit access to plan participants to promote nonplan products and services--and how these behaviors create fiduciary risk.

25.04.2019 01.27 GMT+0000

It’s official--retirement plan fiduciaries need to start caring about vendors’ use of participant data to promote non-plan related financial products and services.

Vanderbilt Settlement Sends Fiduciaries a Message

Vanderbilt Settlement Sends Fiduciaries a Message

• The settlement focuses on limiting the ability of the current recordkeeper (Fidelity) and any future recordkeeper from using participant data.

In a significant development, Vanderbilt University has settled a fiduciary lawsuit--and the settlement includes prohibitions on the use of participant data by plan vendors to market non-plan products.

11.04.2019 07.34 GMT+0000

Plan provider “disclosures” of conflicts of interest do little to protect participants.

Disclosure: A Fox’s Guide to the Henhouse

Disclosure: A Fox’s Guide to the Henhouse

Plan fiduciaries rely on disclosure to protect participants from plan providers whose economic interests conflict with the best interests of participants. This reliance is misplaced.

One of the great challenges facing plans is how to deal with plan providers who have dual loyalties. Conflicted providers represent a significant challenge--and risk--to plan fiduciaries by capitalizing on participant confusion over the role of the financial “advisors” who work for these providers. The most common response is to rely in legal notices and disclosures to “address” concerns over conflicted providers. However, this reliance on legal notices and disclosures needs more careful examination -- especially since the disclosures are prepared by these (conflicted) providers.

20.03.2019 01.42 GMT+0000

More employers are implementing asset retention strategies. This may require more than a few changes to the plan design.

Ensuring the Effectiveness of an Asset Retention Strategy

Ensuring the Effectiveness of an Asset Retention Strategy

Is Your Recordkeeper Undermining Your Initiatives?

Attitudes about employer-sponsored retirement plans’ retaining the assets of terminated employees are starting to change. Asset retention strategies can benefit the plan as a whole and participants. However, an employer implementing an asset retention strategy needs to determine if the plan recordkeeper is also vying for those same assets and has an economic interest in undermining the employer’s strategy.

04.03.2019 07.47 GMT+0000

In recent weeks a new fee, imposed by Fidelity on low cost mutual funds options offered on Fidelity’s recordkeeping platform, has been described in the media and in a new lawsuit against Fidelity.

Who’s Inside Your (Participants’) Wallets ?

Who’s Inside Your (Participants’) Wallets ?

Plan recordkeepers, facing challenges to their traditional revenue models, are looking for new revenue sources. These new sources pose legal challenges for the recordkeepers and practical challenges for plan fiduciaries.

In recent weeks a new fee has been described in the media and in a new lawsuit against Fidelity. The fee, identified as an “infrastructure fee,” is imposed on mutual funds that seek “shelf space” on Fidelity’s recordkeeping platform and that do not otherwise pay sufficient amounts to Fidelity in other (more traditional) fees. The infrastructure fees have triggered a lawsuit and, according to the Wall Street Journal, a DOL investigation. More importantly, these latest revelations about Fidelity’s infrastructure fee serve as a stark reminder that plan providers’ quest to identify the true amount of recordkeeper fees -- and determine if such fees are reasonable -- is an ongoing and constantly evolving challenge.

06.02.2019 01.46 GMT+0000

IRA rollovers are big business for financial providers, representing over $450 million of annual inflows. “Bundled” recordkeepers can use a surprising variety of strategies to attract those assets from employer-sponsored plans-even plans the recordkeepers were hired to support.

The Lure of the IRA and the Power of Inherent Conflict

The Lure of the IRA and the Power of Inherent Conflict

“Bundled” retirement plan recordkeepers have significant financial incentives – and a surprising number of strategies—to convince employees to roll assets into IRAs.

Plan recordkeepers with “bundled” services can offer an array of financial services and products—including IRAs. When a plan participant has a distributable event (such as termination of employment or retirement) these bundled providers have tremendous economic incentives to favor the IRA rollover over retaining assets in the employer-sponsored plan. And, these providers utilize a surprising variety of tactics to attract this rollover revenue.

12.12.2018 06.53 GMT+0000

In the absence of new regulatory support, employers need to use their power in the market to protect participants from conflicted service models.

The (Financial) Empires Strike Back

The (Financial) Empires Strike Back

Initiatives to provide participants with protection from conflicted service models frequently meet with resistance from…the financial industry. What can employers do?

Government initiatives aimed at protecting retirement plan participants from conflicted advice are often resisted -- and occasionally derailed -- by the financial services industry. Employers must understand that regulatory agencies are constrained and, rather than wait for regulatory protections employers must understand that they are in the best position to protect participants.

27.11.2018 04.33 GMT+0000

A complaint filed by the SEC illustrates how brokers can create -- and capitalize on -- employee confusion about their employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Caveat Emptor. Really.

Caveat Emptor. Really.

Want To Buy A Bridge? Retirement Plan Providers Profit from Participant Confusion.

A complaint brought last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that four brokers targeted federal employees in the federal employees’ defined contribution plan and misled participants about the brokers’ relationship with the federal employees’ plan. Although the conduct described in this case is particularly egregious, this case has lessons for all plan sponsors and fiduciaries.