With the recent stock market decline, companies and institutions that provide 401(k) benefit plans are looking for ways to help employees with their investment decisions, but concerns over managing "fiduciary" responsibility and the seemingly overwhelming task of selecting an advice provider have left many employers reluctant to make investment advice available.

However, the landscape for providing investment advice to employees has dramatically changed in the past year. That's due in large measure to a recent Department of Labor (DOL) ruling that paves the way for providers of benefits services, using third-party financial experts, to offer independent financial advice. This important ruling could further be enhanced by proposed legislation, currently in Congress, allowing investment advice for retirement plan participants [see MFMN 10/28/02].

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