Standard & Poor's Retirement Services, the investment advisory subsidiary of Standard & Poor's Investment Services of New York, has received an exemption to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The exemption will safeguard it and plan sponsors who use its services against fiduciary liability.

The ERISA exemption will not necessarily result in any additional services from S&P, said John Guido, vice president of marketing and product development at S&P.

"We just believe that this gives plan sponsors an added level of comfort that we are independent and acting in an unbiased manner," Guido said.

This is the second time that an investment advisory firm has received an exemption to ERISA's prohibitions against recommending specific funds, Guido said.

Trust Company of the West obtained an exemption in 1997 by agreeing to hire an independent research company, Ibbotson Associates of Chicago, to provide fund recommendations to participants in defined-contribution plans including TCW funds. (MFMN 1/10/00)

S&P began offering retirement services in 1995 and now offers advice to plans serving more than 6.5 million participants, Guido said.

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