Name: Paul McEwan, CPA, MT, AIFA, Director of Benefit Plan Services
Posts by Paul McEwan, CPA, MT, AIFA, Director of Benefit Plan Services:
- Loyalty to the plan participants – acting in their exclusive best interest
- Prudence – documenting expertise and a decision-making process
- Following the plan documents
- Diversifying plan assets
- Paying only reasonable expenses for necessary services
- If participants in your plan make their own investment decisions, have you provided sufficient information for them to exercise control in making those decisions? Regulations under ERISA list the information and process required to be provided to participants in order to legally shift the responsibility for making investment decisions to the participants. Are you making the required participant fee and fund performance disclosures required annually by ERISA of all plans permitting participant investment direction?
- How frequently do you deposit participants’ contributions in the plan, and have you made sure it complies with the law? Participant contributions, including loan repayments, are required to be remitted on a timely, consistent basis. Not remitting these funds in a timely manner is considered a misuse of plan assets, which is a prohibited transaction. Not meeting this requirement creates penalties for the plan sponsor.
- If you’re hiring third-party service providers, including investment advisors, have you looked at several providers, given each potential provider the same information, and considered whether the fees are reasonable for the services provided? It’s required that you receive fee and service disclosures from all plan service providers, and you should also receive written acknowledgements from service providers serving in a fiduciary capacity. Here are some other items to consider relating to third-party service providers:
- Have you reviewed your plan document in light of current plan operations and made necessary updates? Have you provided participants with an updated summary plan description (SPD) or summary of material modifications (SMM)? Plans are required to operate according to the provisions stated in the plan document and these provisions must be communicated to participants. Changes are generally permitted, but again are required to be communicated to participants. If the plan is not operating in accordance with the written plan document, the plan could be disqualified, which would result in negative tax implications for you, the plan sponsor, and the participants.
- Are individuals handling plan assets covered by a fidelity bond as required by ERISA? Have you considered purchasing fiduciary insurance to mitigate the personal risk of loss to those employees you identified that are serving as plan fiduciaries? While a fidelity bond and fiduciary insurance are slightly different, both are a form of coverage to provide protection in regards to plans. The bond insures the assets of the plan in the event of employee misconduct and the fiduciary insurance provides personal protection to fiduciaries in the event of any claims for alleged errors, omissions, or breach of fiduciary duties.
You may find that the spotlight isn’t for you. But as the fiduciary of your company’s retirement plan, the spotlight is all on you. The Department of Labor (DOL) has placed a major emphasis on fiduciary responsibility in the past few years and continues to push the matter in its initiatives. So it’s important that you understand what you’re responsible for.
To meet your fiduciary responsibilities as a retirement plan sponsor, you need to understand the fiduciary standards of conduct as adopted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). With these fiduciary responsibilities, there is also potential liability. Fiduciaries that don’t follow the basic standards of conduct may be personally liable to restore any losses to the plan. Pretty serious, right? To help ease your mind, here’s what you need to know.
Identifying Your Plan Fiduciaries
A plan’s fiduciaries will ordinarily include the named trustee in the document, investment advisors and all individuals exercising discretion in the administration of the plan. Under ERISA regulations, fiduciaries are responsible for:
Mitigating Your Risk As A Fiduciary
As a fiduciary of your business’s retirement plan, you should consider these items and answer these questions to ensure that you comply with ERISA regulations:
1. Have you documented your service provider hiring process?
2. Are you prepared to monitor your plan’s service providers, including investment fund performance?
3. Do you have a process in place to determine that the fees paid to service providers remain reasonable for the services provided?
Being a plan fiduciary comes with enormous responsibility. Don’t take your fiduciary responsibilities lightly. If you’re interested in learning more about what you’re responsible for as a retirement plan fiduciary, consider registering for a FREE seminar all about knowing your fiduciary responsibility. Rea & Associates has partnered with the Human Resources Association of Central Ohio (HRACO) to provide an all-day seminar dedicated to helping fiduciaries understand their responsibilities. The seminar will feature speakers from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the DOL. It will be held on Tuesday, August 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at BMI Federal Credit Union Event Center in Dublin, Ohio. More details, including a schedule, can be found here. Click here to register for this free event.
Fiduciary Responsibility Help
Author: Paul McEwan, CPA, MT, AIFA (New Philadelphia office)
Looking for more articles about fiduciary responsibility? Check out these articles!
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” A lot of people adhere to this philosophy, but in some cases, a review of how something works is not only helpful, it is required. If a business’s retirement plan seems to be working fine, and there doesn’t appear to be anything out of place, many employers believe there is no reason to review the provisions of the plan. This may be the case for a plan that was recently established, but it is always a good idea to review provisions every few years to ensure the plan is still meeting the goals of both the employer and its’ employees. Read the rest of this entry “
No one likes to hear from the IRS. But for the roughly 4,000 plan sponsors who have recently received erroneous notices, it’s extremely frustrating. Chances are if you have received a notice telling you that the IRS is assessing a penalty due to your “filing a late or incomplete” Form 5500 or 8955-SSA, it may very well be a mistake. Read the rest of this entry “
Let’s face it. You like to be prepared when it comes to your finances. So do participants of your benefit plans. That need for preparation is what has driven the recent changes in regards to fee disclosure. As a plan sponsor, you need to comply with these new requirements. Are you sure you’re keeping up with your role in the process? Read the rest of this entry “
In the last issue of Illuminations, you read about some initial consequences you may face if you find that your 401(k) plan is out of compliance with an IRS or DOL rule. In this week’s issue, check out the second part of the article that explains the statute of limitations and how you can work to rectify any issues you may have with your business’s retirement plan. To refresh your memory, you can read the first part of the article here. Read the rest of this entry “