On January 20, the DOL made its semiannual regulatory agenda and regulatory plan statement available on its website. The regulatory agenda is the list of regulations the DOL expects to have under active consideration for promulgation, proposal or review during the following 6 to 12 months.
During 2012, EBSA expects to continue to issue guidance to assist in implementing health care reform to both minimize disruptions to existing plans and practices, and to make implementation of the legislation’s market reforms as smooth as possible.
EBSA also expects to re-propose regulations to clarify circumstances under which a person will be considered a “fiduciary” when such person is providing investment advice to employee benefit plans and their participants and beneficiaries. The DOL previously withdrew its proposed regulations on this topic in late 2011 in response to the number of public comments it received with respect to such proposed regulations. The re-proposed regulations are expected to take into account the current practices of investment advisers as well as the expectations of both plan officials and the participants that receive the investment advice.
EBSA is working on a proposed rule that would require that account statements prepared for participants in defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) plans) express the account balance as a lifetime income stream of payments, in addition to presenting the total current value of the account. This proposed rule stems from a 2010 request for information published by EBSA seeking input concerning the steps it may take to encourage the offering of lifetime annuities or benefit distribution options for participants and beneficiaries of defined contribution plans.
Finally, EBSA intends to revise the regulations regarding abandoned plans to include plans of businesses in liquidation proceedings. Such revision is needed to reflect recent changes in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The DOL hopes that the changes will allow bankruptcy trustees to use a streamlined termination process and better discharge their obligations under the law.