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”).

Responding to the “terrifying” reality that conflicted investment advice is costing retirement savers billions of dollars each year, on October 31, 2023, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued proposed rules representing its latest attempt to expand what it means to be providing “investment advice” for a fee under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of

In addition to the excitement of the upcoming outdoor concert season, Proskauer’s lawyers are anxiously awaiting VERY different forms of entertainment:

  • the next installment of the never-ending saga of U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) guidance on who is considered an investment advice fiduciary, including whether the fiduciary standard applies to advice on whether to take a rollover;
  • finalization of the DOL’s QPAM Exemption amendment proposal; and
  • resolution of court challenges to the DOL’s final “ESG” rules.

We discussed these developments at ERISAFest 2023.  If you missed it, feel free to reach out to your Proskauer contact for a recording, and be sure to sign up next year!

****UPDATE:  The Exemption described in this notice appears to be covered by the regulatory freeze described in this Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, issued by Chief of Staff Ronald A. Klain on January 20, 2021.  Accordingly, we expect the effective date of the Exemption to be postponed for 60 days

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, including the expanded definition of “investment advice fiduciary” and the associated exemptions. The decision nullifies the Department’s 2016 regulation—at least in the Fifth Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and arguably nationwide—but is not