Current Events

Investment education under the Conflict of Interest regulation

April 18, 2016

The Department of Labor’s Conflict of Interest regulation, re-defining who is an ERISA “fiduciary,” supersedes current rules (under Interpretive Bulletin 96-1) on investment education. Under the new regulation, activities that come within the definition of “investment education” are not “recommendations” within the meaning of the new rule and thus do not trigger fiduciary status. The new rule tracks IB 96-1 in many respects, but there are some key differences. In this article we begin with background on why the education vs. advice distinction matters. We then provide a brief summary of the changes made by the new rules. Finally, we discuss the new rules in detail. Read More

DOL’s new Conflict of Interest regulation in brief

April 11, 2016

The new DOL regulation (and related rules): (1) re-defines who is an “investment advice fiduciary” under ERISA, expanding those situations in which giving investment advice to an employee benefit plan, plan fiduciary, participant, or IRA owner makes the advice-giver an ERISA fiduciary; and (2) significantly changes what sorts of advice may be given, to whom and in what circumstances. The new rules will probably have their greatest effect on brokers, mutual funds, and certain other financial services providers and on consultants and third party administrators. Read More

DOL finalizes re-definition of ERISA “investment advice fiduciary”

April 11, 2016

On April 6, 2016, the Department of Labor finalized its regulation re-defining who is an “investment advice fiduciary” under ERISA. In connection with that regulation it also finalized two new prohibited transaction exemptions (PTEs) and amendments (and revocations) of certain prior PTEs. With this regulation package, DOL is expanding those situations in which giving investment advice to an employee benefit plan, plan fiduciary, participant, or IRA owner makes the advice-giver an ERISA fiduciary (“investment advice fiduciary”). It significantly changes what sorts of advice may be given, to whom and in what circumstances. Read More

Company stock and inside information: DOL’s view

April 05, 2016

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Fifth Third Bancorp et al. v. Dudenhoeffer, the stock drop lawsuits that are getting the most traction with courts generally involve claims that plan fiduciaries were aware of inside information on the basis of which they could have reasonably concluded that the company stock’s market price was “artificially inflated.” Plaintiffs are asserting that in those circumstances plan fiduciaries should (at a minimum) have stopped buying company stock. (“Stock drop” cases involve company stock held in, e.g., a 401(k) plan that has lost significant value (hence, "drop"), in which the plaintiff argues the plan’s fiduciaries had an obligation to sell plan stock (or not continue to buy it) before or during the “drop.”) Read More

Tatum v. R. J. R Part 3

March 15, 2016

In February 2016, the United States District Court for the Middle District Of North Carolina handed down its (second) decision in Tatum v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, holding (again) that even though the plan fiduciaries violated “procedural prudence” in selling Nabisco stock held by the R. J. Reynolds defined contribution plan, their decision to do so was “substantively prudent” and therefore did not violate ERISA. Read More

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