The Department of Labor issued new regulations that aim to broaden access to personalized investment advice for workers engaged in retirement savings plans.

Under the new rules announced Monday, the Labor Department's Employee Benefits Security Administration is granting a limited exemption for advisors to offer fiduciary advice to participants of a plan from which the advisor receives additional fees.

The rules follow from the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act (ERISA) and Internal Revenue Code, which authorize the Labor Department to carve out exemptions to the prohibitions against offering advice to investors in situations where the advisors might have a conflict of interest.

"Given the rise in participation in 401(k)-type plans and IRAs, the retirement security of millions of America's workers increasingly depends on their investment decisions," EBSA Assistant Secretary Phyllis Borzi said in a statement Monday. "This rule will make high-quality fiduciary investment advice more accessible, while providing important safeguards to minimize potential conflicts of interest."

Those safeguards include provisions that the investment advice must emanate from a computer model certified by a third party as unbiased. Alternatively, advisors could qualify for the exemption if they are compensated on a "level-fee" basis whereby fees remain constant irrespective of the investments they select. Advisors would also be subject to other conditions to qualify for the exemption, and submit to annual audits and disclose details of their fees.

The final rules are set for publication in the Federal Register on Tuesday.

The new rules are unrelated to a separate ERISA proceeding under way at the Labor Department regarding a proposed expansion of fiduciary responsibility obligations for people providing advice to retirement plans. Under intense opposition from industry groups and concerns from several prominent lawmakers, the department has put that rulemaking process on hold, but senior officials have said they plan to revisit the issue early next year.




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