The new Department of Labor rule defining the scope of who is an ERISA fiduciary (see our prior post here) has caused much consternation among investment professionals.  Much of the new rule is focused on reworking the outer fringes of the ERISA landscape capturing those in the investment industry offering IRA and annuity products.

Given that investment professionals appear to be the primary target of the new fiduciary rule, employers may believe that this is one room in the ERISA house of horrors that they do not have to enter.  To a large extent that is true because the concept of fiduciary status and the fee disclosure rules, as applied to traditional retirement plans, are already well entrenched.  Still, employers need to consider whether certain providers to their retirement plans are newly covered by the revised fiduciary rule and determine whether those relationships are being conducted in accordance with the new rules.

In reviewing existing arrangements, employers having group health plans supplemented by health savings accounts should be aware that health savings accounts are specifically covered by the new fiduciary rule.  As ERISA welfare plans, health savings accounts were outside the reach of the earlier fee disclosure rules.  The rationale for covering health savings accounts under the new fiduciary rule is presumably the belief that a number of employees maintaining these accounts are using them as a way of establishing another source of retirement savings.

Before the new fiduciary rule takes effect, employers should examine their role with any health savings account arrangements to assess how the health savings accounts are being made available to employees, how the providers offering those services are being compensated, whether the compensatory arrangement needs to comport with the new fiduciary rule, and if so, how the provider intends to satisfy the requirements of the rule.