The new “retirement security rule” package, issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) on October 31, 2023, is the latest chapter in an almost 15-year effort by the DOL to amend the five-part test in its 1975 regulation for determining whether a person is a “fiduciary” by reason of providing “investment advice” for a fee (the “Five-Part Test”). (For more on the history, see here, here, and here.) The package includes a proposed new fiduciary “investment advice” rule (the “Proposed Rule”) and proposed amendments to certain prohibited transaction exemptions.
Very generally speaking, the Proposed Rule would significantly expand the circumstances under which a person could be treated as providing “investment advice” that is subject to ERISA’s fiduciary standards (including the self-dealing prohibited transaction rules). In particular, the Proposed Rule would replace the Five-Part Test’s requirements that advice be provided (1) on a “regular basis” pursuant to (2) a “mutual agreement, arrangement or understanding” that (3) it would serve as “a primary basis for investment decisions” with a much broader test that is based on the retirement investor’s reasonable expectations and context. The Proposed Rule would specifically cover a recommendation to roll over an account from an employer-sponsored plan (e.g., a 401(k) plan) into an individual retirement account (an “IRA”).