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What is an ERISA fiduciary?


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What is an ERISA fiduciary?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was enacted in 1974 to protect employees who participate in retirement plans and certain other employee benefit plans. At the time, there were concerns that pension plan funds were being mismanaged, causing participants to lose benefits they had worked so hard to earn. ERISA protects the interests of plan participants and their beneficiaries by:

  • Requiring the disclosure of financial and other plan information
  • Establishing standards of conduct for plan fiduciaries
  • Providing for appropriate remedies, sanctions, and access to the federal courts

It's the fiduciary provisions of ERISA that help protect participants from the mismanagement and abuse of plan assets. The law requires that fiduciaries act prudently, solely in the interests of plan participants and beneficiaries, and for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits and paying reasonable expenses of administering the plan.

Fiduciaries must diversify plan investments to minimize the risk of large losses, unless it's clearly prudent not to do so. Fiduciaries must also avoid conflicts of interest. They cannot allow the plan to engage in certain transactions with the employer, service providers, or other fiduciaries ("parties in interest"). There are also specific rules against self-dealing.

Who is a plan fiduciary? Anyone who:

  • Exercises any discretionary control over the plan or its assets
  • Has any discretionary responsibility for administration of the plan
  • Provides investment advice for a fee or other compensation (direct or indirect)

Plan fiduciaries may include, for example, discretionary plan trustees, plan administrators, investment managers and advisors, and members of a plan's investment committee.

Fiduciaries must take their responsibilities seriously. If they fail to comply with ERISA's requirements, they may be personally liable for any losses incurred by the plan. Criminal liability may also be possible.

 
©2017 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.
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 IRS CIRCULAR 230 NOTICE: Pursuant to recently enacted U.S. Treasury Department Regulations, we are now required advise you that, unless otherwise expressly indicated, any federal tax advice expressed above was neither written nor intended by the sender or this firm to be used and cannot be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under U.S. tax law. If any person uses or refers to any such tax advice in promoting, marketing or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any taxpayer, then the advice should be considered to have been written to support the promotion or marketing by a person other than the sender or this firm of that transaction or matter, and such taxpayer should seek advice based on the taxpayer's particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.

These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Copyright © 2016 Michael David Schulman. All rights reserved.
 


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