So Long Mandated Fee Disclosure (At Least For Now)

On the heels of my interview with Fred Reish last week, he sent an email informing me that the the DOL apparently announced yesterday that they are withdrawing the 408(b)(2) regulation from consideration.  The regulation regarding disclosures to participants was also withdrawn.

According to Fred, it appears that the consequence will be that the regulations will be re-worked by the DOL after the new Assistant Secretary has been appointed, although the specifics are unpredictable at this time.

He also suggested this could open the door for legislation sponsored by Congressman George Miller, which could be more burdensome than the regulations would have been.

I have to say that I am disappointed with this news as I felt these changes would bring new (and needed) transparency to retirement plans and it is important that this happens sooner rather than later. 

That being said, I think the scrutiny on fees over the past year, even without 408(b)(2) moving forward in its current form, will have three positive outcomes:

  1. Prudent plan sponsors will continue to put greater emphasis on the fees and conflicts associated with their plans and will require greater disclosure from service providers.  Those service providers who resist will "weed" themselves out of the business of servicing retirement plans.
  2. This process will bring to light many weaknesses in the system and ultimately have a positive impact on improving the performance of retirement plans and the outcomes for participants.
  3. The best and most successful service providers will be the ones that help clients develop and follow a prudent oversight process.  Proactive disclosure and transparency is critical to a prudent approach and always a good best practice, whether legally mandated or not.

Without the regulation, it is even more important that plan sponsors use this DOL/SEC resource and ask these questions when dealing with current or prospective services providers.

Stay tuned!