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DOL Readying New 401(k) Advice Rules

The Department of Labor’s new rules for advice in 401(k) plans are currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget and could be released as early as the end of the month.

Unlike the Jan. 21, 2009 provision issued in the final days of President George W. Bush that would have allowed advisers affiliated with mutual fund and brokerage firms to provide advice, the new rules are faithful to both the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the Pension Protection Act of 2006, said Assistant Labor Secretary Phyllis Borzi. They underscore “the fiduciary duty of a plan sponsor to prudently elect and monitor service providers,” Borzi said. “That duty isn’t going to be waived on my watch.”

In addition, unlike the 2009 proposal, which was also criticized as convoluted for prompting sponsors to provide advice either through an impartial computer model or a flat fee in order not to incentivize a 401(k) provider to steer investors to proprietary funds, Borzi said the new rule is far more direct and streamlined.

The Assistant Secretary also said the Obama Administration wants to improve 401(k) education programs and disclosure.

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