On April 14, 2015 the Employee Benefits Security Administration unveiled its proposal to re-define who is rendered a "fiduciary" of an employee benefit plan under ERISA by providing investment advice to a plan or its participants or beneficiaries. According to the proposal's preamble, the revised regulations would treat those who provide investment advice or recommendations to an employee benefit plan, plan fiduciary, plan participant or beneficiary, IRA, or IRA owner as fiduciaries under ERISA "in a wider array of advice relationships than the existing ERISA and [Internal Revenue] Code regulations, which would be replaced."
A detailed explanation of the proposal and its implications for benefit plan administration is forthcoming. In the interim, the EBSA has provided a number of guidance documents on this proposal, including a fact sheet, set of frequently asked questions, and information on a proposed best interest contract exemption and a proposed class exemption for principal transactions.
The EBSA will seek comments on this proposal for 75 days after its publication in the Federal Register. In a press release, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said: "As commonsense as this may be, laws to protect consumers and ensure that financial advisers are giving the best advice in a complex market have not kept pace. Our proposed rule would change that. Under the proposed rule, retirement advisers can be paid in various ways, as long as they are willing to put their customers' best interest first."