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Fiduciary Advisers

What is a 408(g) fiduciary adviser?

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs and qualified retirement plans.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business. A recent call with an advisor in Washington is representative of a common inquiry involving investment advice fiduciaries.

Highlights of discussion

  • “Fiduciary Advisers” may provide investment advice to qualified plan participants through an “eligible investment advice arrangement” that is based on a level-fee arrangement for the fiduciary adviser, a certified computer model or both [ERISA §408(g)].
  • A fiduciary adviser may also work with IRA owners as well.
  • Plan sponsors who engage a fiduciary adviser for their participants will not be responsible for the specific investment advice given, provided the adopting plan sponsors follow certain monitoring and disclosure rules. Plan sponsors are still responsible for the prudent selection and monitoring of the available investments under the plan and the fiduciary adviser.
  • The fiduciary adviser role is part of a statutory prohibited transaction exemption for the provision of investment advice that has been around since 2007, having been created by the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA-06).  It has received very little attention over the years until now given the new emphasis on defining investment advice fiduciaries.
  • A fiduciary adviser could be a registered investment adviser, a broker-dealer, a trust department of a bank, or an insurance company.
  • To satisfy the exemption, a fiduciary adviser must provide written notification to plan fiduciaries that he/she intends to use an eligible investment advice arrangement that will be audited by an independent auditor on an annual basis. The fiduciary adviser must also give detailed written notices to plan participants regarding the advice arrangement before any advice is given.
  • Every year the eligible investment advice arrangement must be audited by a qualified independent auditor to verify that it meets the requirements. The auditor is required to issue a written report to the plan fiduciary that authorized the arrangement. If the report reveals noncompliance with the regulations, the fiduciary adviser must send a copy of the report to the Department of Labor (DOL). In both cases the report must identify the 1) fiduciary adviser, 2) type of arrangement, 3) eligible investment advice expert and date of the computer model certification (if applicable), and 4) findings of the auditor.

Conclusion

Under PPA-06, plan sponsors can authorize fiduciary advisers to offer investment advice to their plan participants and beneficiaries as part of an eligible investment advice arrangement.  Plan sponsors will not be held liable for the advice given by fiduciary advisers, provided all the requirements of the prohibited transaction exemption are met.

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SIMPLE IRA Plan Annual Notices

What are the annual notice requirements for a SIMPLE IRA plan?

ERISA consultants at the Retirement Learning Center Resource Desk regularly receive calls from financial advisors on a broad array of technical topics related to IRAs and qualified retirement plans.  We bring Case of the Week to you to highlight the most relevant topics affecting your business. A recent call with an advisor in New Hampshire is representative  of a common inquiry involving SIMPLE IRA plans.

Highlights of Discussion

By November 1 of each year, an employer that sponsors a SIMPLE IRA plan must provide eligible employees with two important notices:

  1. the Summary Description; and
  2. the Annual Deferral Notice (IRS Notice 98-4).

The Summary Description must include the following information:

  1. The name and address of the employer and the trustee or custodian;
  2. The requirements for eligibility for participation;
  3. The benefits provided with respect to the arrangement;
  4. The time and method of making employee elections with respect to the arrangement; and
  5. The procedures for, and effects of, withdrawals (including rollovers) from the arrangement.

If a plan sponsor established the SIMPLE IRA plan using either IRS Form 5305-SIMPLE or 5304-SIMPLE , he or she can fulfill the Summary Description requirement by providing eligible employees completed copies of pages one and two of those forms. If a plan sponsor used a prototype SIMPLE IRA plan document, then the information is obtained from the forms vendor.

The Annual Deferral Notice must include the following information:

  1. The employee’s opportunity to make or change a salary deferral choice under the SIMPLE IRA plan;
  2. The employee’s ability to select a financial institution that will serve as trustee of the employee’s SIMPLE IRA, if applicable;
  3. The plan sponsor’s decision to make either matching contributions or nonelective contributions and the amount; and
  4. Written notice that an employee can transfer his or her balance without cost or penalty if he or she is using a designated financial institution.

IRS Forms 5305-SIMPLE and 5304-SIMPLE have model Annual Deferral Notices that a plan sponsor can use to satisfy this requirement.

If the employer fails to provide one or more of the required notices he or she is liable for a penalty of $50 per day until the notices are provided.

Notification failures of this sort may be eligible for correction under the IRS’ Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS).

Conclusion

Sponsors of SIMPLE IRA plans must ensure compliance with the annual notification requirements for eligible employees or, potentially, face IRS penalties.

 

© Copyright 2017 Retirement Learning Center, all rights reserved