Allen Steinberg

Allen Steinberg : Perspectives

Employee benefit plans—especially retirement and health care—have become an increasingly important part of the employment relationship. For employers, these plans represent an important part of the total compensation package, a tool for retention and recruitment, and a growing financial and compliance burden. For employees, these plans represent a key part of their overall financial security and wellbeing, a financial burden, and a source of complexity and frustration. In effect, it’s complicated. Our firm is dedicated to helping employers manage these complexities and focus on the important things.

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18.05.2018 09.49 CDT

Financial firms have both the opportunity and the financial motivation to move customers from employer-sponsored plans to individual products, such as retail managed accounts and annuities. An investigation of Wells Fargo bank may disclose whether the bank succumbed to the temptation.

Et Tu, Wells Fargo?

Et Tu, Wells Fargo?

An investigation does not mean there was any wrongdoing by Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo bank is reportedly under investigation for practices in the bank’s retirement plan division. The investigation apparently focuses on practices that may have been intended to move clients from employer-sponsored plans into more expensive individual retirement accounts when they leave their jobs. If these reports are accurate it may help shine a light on industry practices that contribute to plan “leakage.”

10.05.2018 06.37 CDT

The SEC’s proposed new rules require broker-dealers’ obligations to act in customers’ “best interests.” The SEC proposal, in some ways, fills some of the gaps created by the recent court decision to invalidate DOL regulations expanding the definition of ERISA “fiduciary.”

The SEC Enters the Fiduciary Fray

The SEC Enters the Fiduciary Fray

The SEC has now weighed into this fiduciary fray, proposing new rules governing the behavior of broker-dealers.

The SEC has proposed new rules governing the behavior of broker-dealers. Under this proposal a broker- dealer “shall act in the best interest of the retail customer . . . . without placing the financial or other interest of the [broker-dealer] ahead of the retail customer.” The primary requirements of “best interest” are that broker-dealers disclose fee structures and not place their financial interests ahead of customers’ interests.

08.05.2018 07.03 CDT

The latest court decision invalidating the DOL’s proposed rewrite of the fiduciary rules adds more uncertainty for plan fiduciaries. How do fiduciaries get past the “noise” of conflicting courts and regulators and go about the business of protect plan interests?

Nature Abhors a Vacuum – and So Should Fiduciaries

Nature Abhors a Vacuum – and So Should Fiduciaries

Conflicting court opinions, dueling regulators and uncertain direction from the executive branch are making it harder for plan fiduciaries to do their jobs.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decision to invalidate the DOL’s new fiduciary rule is the latest in a string of confusing (and often conflicting) messages to plan fiduciaries. However, fiduciary duties under ERISA are grounded in some core principles that have not changed. The legal confusion surrounding certain fiduciary issues cannot obstruct fiduciaries’ execution of those duties.

19.03.2018 04.01 CDT

A new court decision could give the Administration an opportunity to completely withdraw the regulations expanding ERISA’s definition of fiduciary and limit the ability to expand the scope of ERISA’s fiduciary protections in the future.

Court of Appeals Strikes Down Fiduciary Rule

Court of Appeals Strikes Down Fiduciary Rule

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has issued an opinion striking down the DOL’s new fiduciary rule. The decision will add more (unwelcome) uncertainty.

On March 15 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down the DOL’s new fiduciary rule. The decision, in very sweeping terms, concluded that the DOL did not have the regulatory authority to expand the previous definition of “fiduciary” contained in 1975 regulations. The breadth of the Court’s ruling, if upheld, makes it virtually impossible for the DOL to somehow modify the fiduciary proposal or to issue new fiduciary rules.

12.03.2018 05.31 CDT

The past year has seen a number of new state and local laws covering a range of benefits-related areas. However, this legislative and regulatory patchwork has a down side for employers, who may find it increasingly difficult to deal with complying with the requirements of multiple jurisdictions.

The New Federalism: Employee Benefits in the Laboratory

The New Federalism: Employee Benefits in the Laboratory

In the federal system, states can serve as “laboratories” for different policies. It appears that the benefits and HR community have become the guinea pigs of choice as the state “laboratories” have attempted to push back at the policies (or lack thereof) emanating from Washington, D.C.

The past few years has seen a number of new state and local laws covering a range of benefits-related areas. In part, this activity can be attributed to pushback at the policies (or lack thereof) emanating from Washington, D.C. And, we can anticipate an increase in such activity in the coming years. However, state and local activism can have some unintended (and undesirable) consequences.