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Daily Article Digest - Updated Regularly

This digest contains a wide variety of the freshest source material dealing with current trends, opinion, news, legislative action, investments, marketing, sales, consulting, and legal issues regarding 401k, 403b and other retirement plans. Each listing contains a headline (hyperlinked to the source document), description, source of the item, and the month and year posted to this digest.

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Millions Speed Up Retirement in Pandemic

More than 3.1 million Americans age 55 or older plan to apply for Social Security benefits earlier than they once thought because of the pandemic, according to the Census Bureau. That's offset by 1.4 million people in the same age group who anticipate working longer due to the impact of Covid-19, according to the bureau's latest Household Pulse survey conducted between March 3 and 15.

Source: Treasuryandrisk.com, April 2021

What to Know Before Adding an SDBA to Your Plan

As more participants engage with their investments and take a more hands-on approach, sources say self-directed brokerage accounts are becoming increasingly popular. But there are pros and cons of allowing retirement plan participants to use them.

Source: Plansponsor.com, April 2021

DOL Urged to Give Retirement Plans Cybersecurity Guidance

DOL officials told GAO that they believe cybersecurity is a serious problem for retirement plans, and the department plans to post sub-regulatory compliance assistance materials addressing related issues for plan sponsors and administrators. But the timing of DOL's coming cybersecurity guidance is uncertain. GAO's report did not recommend legislation, but lawmakers will likely assess the need for action after reviewing the DOL guidance.

Source: Mercer.com, April 2021

Employer 401k Cybersecurity Responsibilities

Protection of 401k plan participant balances against theft has become a major concern for all employer plan sponsors. What do plan sponsors need to do to meet 401k cybersecurity challenges? Read this to find out.

Source: Lawtonrpc.com, April 2021

DOL Approves PBGC Missing Participant Program for Defined Contribution Plans

FAB 2021-01 now provides that until the DOL updates its safe harbor rules, the agency will not pursue fiduciary violations when missing participants' balances are transferred to the PBGC instead of to IRAs. However, the bulletin does not provide complete protection against enforcement.

Source: Hallbenefitslaw.com, April 2021

Is Data a Plan Asset: Another Court Says No

Last week marked a key development in the nascent and still evolving body of case law addressing the status of 401k plan participant data as an ERISA "plan asset." The U.S. District Court for Southern District of Texas granted Fidelity Investments' dismissal motion in Harmon v. Shell Oil, based on the Court's inability to draw a conclusion that plan participant data is a "plan asset," the exercise of control over which would give rise to fiduciary responsibility (and potential liability) under ERISA.

Source: Groom.com, April 2021

IRS Lists Solo 401k Plans as Audit Target

If your business sponsors a "solo 401k" plan, it may be in the crosshairs of the Internal Revenue Service. The Service's TE/GE division has identified one-participant 401k plans as among its current audit initiatives. In its web posting announcing the initiative, TE/GE states: "[t]he focus of this strategy is to review one-participant 401k plans to determine if there are operational or qualification failures, income and excise tax adjustments, or plan document violations."

Source: Eforerisa.com, April 2021

Bellwether IBM Stock Drop ERISA Lawsuit Settlement Published

The case history of IBM v. Jander shows the importance, but also the limitations, of Supreme Court rulings in fiduciary breach cases involving ERISA. IBM admits no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, while the class of plaintiffs agrees to release all related future claims against the company, its subsidiaries, or any future owners. The company has agreed to pay $4.75 million into a qualified settlement fund within 30 calendar days of the final approval of the settlement by the court.

Source: Planadviser.com, April 2021

DOL Reinstates Five-Part Test for Determination of ERISA Fiduciary Status

On December 18, 2020, the DOL published in the Federal Register a final prohibited transaction exemption for investment advice fiduciaries that effectively reinstates the DOL's "five-part test" as outlined in its 1975 regulation defining investment advice fiduciaries under the Code and ERISA. In addition to meeting all five tenets of the test, there must also be receipt of direct or indirect compensation to be considered fiduciary investment advice.

Source: Hallbenefitslaw.com, April 2021

DOL Proffers Guidance on Missing Participants

On January 12, 2021, the DOL released guidance to help plan fiduciaries meet their obligations under ERISA to find and distribute retirement benefits to missing or non-responsive participants.

Source: Hallbenefitslaw.com, April 2021

Barking Dogs, Required Arbitration, and Plan Restatements

Vice President and investment consultant Cliff Dunteman explains how recent case law could impact retirement plan sponsors when it comes to required arbitration and plan restatements.

Source: Francisinvco.com, April 2021

Are You Sure You Can Use the QPAM Exemption?

For many investment managers, the ability to act as QPAM is essential to managing retirement account assets. But the QPAM Exemption is subject to myriad conditions, the failure to meet only one of which can wreak havoc on a compliance strategy. In a Q&A format, this article provides an overview and highlights potential trap doors.

Source: Fiduciarygovernanceblog.com, April 2021

The DOL Offers Guidance on How to Keep Track of Your Plan Participants

The DOL has for some time been concerned about whether retirement plans are adequately keeping track of participants who have separated from service. On January 12, 2021, the DOL issued three separate documents with guidance on this issue. This article focuses on the best practices for retirement plans.

Source: Boutwellfay.com, April 2021

DOL to Hold Online VFCP Events

The Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has announced that it will be holding online events concerning the DOL's Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program.

Source: Asppa.org, April 2021

Meaning Well Is Not Always Enough: Watch Your VCP Submission

The IRS's Voluntary Correction Program provides a means by which filers can correct errors before they are told to do so, but the good intentions entailed in using it do not guarantee that there will not be errors in the filings intended to correct mistakes. The IRS has outlined the top mistakes made by those who use it.

Source: Asppa.org, April 2021

Retirement Plans Included in IRS Update of Compliance Strategies

The IRS Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Office has updated its compliance program. That includes compliance strategy initiatives that affect some retirement plans.

Source: Asppa.org, April 2021

QBAD Distribution Limits When One Spouse Doesn't Participate in a Retirement Plan

Experts from Groom Law Group and CAPTRUST answer questions concerning retirement plan administration and regulations, in this case, on QBAD Distribution Limits.

Source: Planadviser.com, April 2021

Lawsuit Says Retirement Plan Fiduciaries Failed to Monitor and Limit Revenue Sharing

According to the lawsuit, from 2015 through 2019, plan participants paid a portion of the fees for retirement plan services provided by the plan's recordkeeper directly through deductions from their accounts. Also, RPS fees were paid indirectly through revenue sharing. "Based upon a review of the plan's Forms 5500, and upon information and belief, the plan did not rebate any of the monies received from the revenue sharing back to plan participants to offset the RPS fees paid by the participants," the complaint says.

Source: Planadviser.com, April 2021

Reboot, Rewire, or Retire: The Future of Phased Retirement

The author writes, "About 50 years ago, I became interested in demographic patterns and their impacts on society. That led me a focus on distinct life cycle patterns and ways to gradually exit the labor force. First I took an employer perspective, but more recently I have taken the individual perspective. For the last 15 years, I have experienced phased retirement, continued my research, and talked to other people about their experiences."

Source: Pensionresearchcouncil.wharton.upenn.edu, April 2021

Morningstar Updates Findings on 2020 401k Allocation Decisions

A new paper by Morningstar updates previous findings exploring how 401k participants responded during the first quarter of 2020 to see what, if anything, changed over the year. The paper explores the allocation decisions of 520,556 individuals actively participating in a 401k plan during the 2020 calendar year. Participants are categorized into four broad groups based on whether they were self-directing their accounts, using a target-date fund, defaulted into managed accounts, or opted into managed accounts.

Source: Napa-net.org, April 2021

IBM Stock Drop Settles Case, Not Issues

The essence of the suit was that the employer's stock price dropped suddenly and plaintiffs argued that the plan fiduciaries -- who allegedly had awareness of the news and its impact before its public disclosure -- had an obligation to alert/take action concerning the retirement plan accounts that had invested in the employer stock. After nearly six years of litigation, the settlement terms of an ERISA litigation case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court have come to light.

Source: Napa-net.org, April 2021

Pooled Employer Plans: The Benefits and Considerations for Employers

The SECURE Act introduced an entirely new retirement plan fiduciary structure called the Pooled Employer Plan. PEPs allow unrelated employers to pool resources to help achieve economies of scale and administrative efficiencies. As with any retirement plan strategy, PEPs come with benefits, limitations, and risks that should all factor into an employer's decision to join. This is a review of the benefits, limitations, and risks.

Source: Lockton.com, April 2021

Retirement Plan Provider Gimmicks You Need to Be Aware Of

The retirement plan business is heavily competitive and so much of that deals with marketing. As a retirement plan sponsor, you need to separate the fluff from the real stuff. You also need to understand what is a sales gimmick and what is something of substance. Here are some of the marketing and sales gimmicks.

Source: Jdsupra.com, April 2021

Effects of Extended Tax Filing on Benefit Plans

Similar to the relief granted in 2020, the IRS has again announced special filing and payment relief deadlines for individuals in response to COVID-19 through Notice 2021-21. The Notice postpones the Federal income tax return and payment due dates from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021. The IRS guidance also affects the world of benefit plans and will result in the changes reviewed here.

Source: Graydon.law, April 2021

A Plan for Retirement Spending

Coming up with an effective plan for spending your hard-earned retirement savings is a complex task. Here are some tips to get started.

Source: Francisinvco.com, April 2021

Like Saving, Retirement Spending Requires a Plan

You save diligently for retirement, but how do you create a plan to strategically spend those savings? Francis Investment Counsel's Mike Francis provides tips for establishing your retirement spending plan in this article recently featured in the Star Tribune.

Source: Francisinvco.com, April 2021

Five Drawbacks of Using Only a 401k for Retirement

A 401k plan is an excellent tool to help employees save for retirement. Many employers offer a company match, which is basically extra compensation. Not only that, but you also usually get a tax break for your contributions in the year you make them. But if you're only saving for retirement in a 401k, it could end up hurting you when you're ready to start living on your savings. Here are five drawbacks of only using a 401k for retirement.

Source: Fool.com, April 2021

Ninth Circuit Enforces Forum Selection Clause in 401k Plan

On April 1, 2021, the Ninth Circuit became the third circuit court to conclude that a forum-selection clause in an ERISA 401k plan is enforceable. The Ninth Circuit thus denied a petition for mandamus seeking to overturn a district court decision transferring an ERISA action from the Northern District of California to the District of Minnesota.

Source: Erisapracticecenter.com, April 2021

Demand Rising for Virtual and Self-Service 401k Education

The popularity of virtual and self-service 401(k) educational sessions has grown since the start of the pandemic, but apparently that trend was accelerating even before then.

Source: Napa-net.org, April 2021*

An Updated Look at 401k Participant Behaviors During the COVID-19 Crisis

When markets tumbled, volatility reached unprecedented levels, and interest rates hit record lows in early 2020, it made sense that investors may have questioned what they should be doing with their portfolios. But what did their behavior look like later in the year after the initial shock of the year's unexpected turmoil wore off?

Source: Morningstar.com, April 2021

Participant Directed Investments Through Brokerage Windows: The Last Frontier or a Trap for the Unwary?

What should fiduciaries of participant-directed plans consider in deciding whether to allow participants to direct their investments using arrangements loosely referred to as "brokerage windows"? The realm of ERISA plan investments through these arrangements remains largely uncharted territory. Fiduciaries operate under the broad understanding that ERISA Section 404(a) fiduciary duties of prudence and loyalty apply, but with little guidance on how.

Source: Wagnerlawgroup.com, April 2021

Managed Accounts Help 401k Savers Prepare for Retirement: Cerulli

Managed account programs can be beneficial for some participants in 401ks and other defined contribution plans, most importantly for those approaching or already living in retirement, according to the latest Cerulli Edge.

Source: Thinkadvisor.com, April 2021

Courts Split on Class Action Waivers, Arbitration Provisions in ERISA Litigation

Courts have struggled through the years when considering the enforceability of mandatory class action waivers and arbitration provisions contained within ERISA plans and other employment-related agreements. Courts have taken various approaches in determining whether class action waivers and arbitration provisions are enforceable in ERISA-based litigation. These approaches are discussed here.

Source: Hklaw.com, April 2021

American Rescue Plan Act Contains Many Employee Benefits Related Provisions

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law. Many of the provisions in this sweeping legislation bring changes to the employee benefits world of which employers should take note of and which are summarized here.

Source: Benefitsnotes.com, April 2021

Judge Moves Forward Claims in Lawsuit Against Schneider Electric

A federal judge has moved forward a lawsuit brought by participants in the Schneider Electric 401k Plan alleging plan fiduciaries and Aon Hewitt Investment Consulting breached their fiduciary duties and engaged in prohibited transactions in violation of ERISA. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs say that instead of acting in the exclusive best interest of participants, the defendants selected and retained proprietary Aon Hewitt collective investment trusts that only benefited Aon Hewitt.

Source: Planadviser.com, April 2021

The Line Between Education and Fiduciary Advice

Does the industry have a clear definition of what the DOL would consider investment education (not advice) in a 401k plan so that a financial advisor would not have to follow the requirements of Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2020-02?

Source: Napa-net.org, April 2021

Fidelity Fends Off Participant Data Claims

Another federal court has weighed in on the status of participant data as a plan asset. The issue arose most recently last January in an excessive fee suit brought by the St. Louis-based law firm of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton on behalf of four participant-plaintiffs in Shell Oil's $10.5 billion 401k plan. The Schlichter firm took issue with the use of participant data by the recordkeeper to solicit non-plan-related services.

Source: Napa-net.org, April 2021

How to Stay Out of Trouble as a Retirement Plan Provider

There are two types of trouble: trouble is where you get entangled in a dispute for what is right, and trouble for doing something wrong. This article is all about the second kind of trouble and the stuff you could do to avoid it and therefore sidestep harming your business.

Source: Jdsupra.com, April 2021

Top Mistakes in Voluntary Correction Program (VCP) Submissions

Before you (or your representative) send your VCP submission to the IRS, check to make sure it's error-free. If your submission has errors, it takes longer to review and delays the issuance of the compliance statement. The top mistakes noticed in VCP submissions are listed in this March 31, 2021 article update.

Source: Irs.gov, April 2021

Wave of PEPs Hits the Market

Pooled employer plans are coming to market at a clip, three months after the first ones were given the DOL's blessing. In the past week alone, at least three pooled employer plans, or PEPs, have been announced. Those include plans from American Trust, Access Retirement Solutions, and a new entity from venture capital firm Magis Capital Partners, Sallus Retirement.

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), April 2021

In-Plan Income Is Key to Retirement Security

For defined contribution plans to effectively replace and mirror defined benefit plans, there must be a viable in-plan retirement income solution. But that's been tried unsuccessfully for years. If the demand and need are so overwhelming, what's the problem?

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), April 2021

The Relentless Rules of Humble Arithmetic: 401k/403b Fiduciary Litigation at the Crossroads

SCOTUS is currently deciding whether to hear the Hughes v. Northwestern University 403b case. The key issue in the case is an allegation of fiduciary breach by the plan concerning the level of the plan's fees. A number of large financial services firms have recently sold their 401k/403b divisions. Could a possible explanation be concern over a possible review and adverse decision by SCOTUS? Could the humble arithmetic and simplicity of the Active Management Value Ratio metric be a contributing factor in these decisions to leave the 401k/403b arena?

Source: Iainsight.wordpress.com, April 2021

The Key to Avoiding Retirement Plan Excessive Fee Litigation

The recent increase in litigation over retirement plans and, specifically, the fees those plans are being charged for administration and management, has many companies concerned about what they need to do to protect the plans they manage. Two recent federal district court rulings illustrate the necessity for plan sponsors to have a prudent decision-making process in place to successfully defend against excessive fee litigation.

Source: Hallbenefitslaw.com, April 2021

Significant Changes to 2022 Pension and IRA Reports Reflected on Draft Withholding Forms

On March 12, the IRS released the latest versions of the 2022 draft withholding forms for pension, IRA, and annuity payments. While pension withholding elections have historically all been made on Form W-4P, that form will be split into two forms for 2022. Recordkeepers, plan sponsors and other payors may want to consider tackling these form changes early on, as they are likely to entail extensive system changes.

Source: Groom.com, April 2021

Design a 401k Plan Like a Pro in Six Steps

Small businesses can have dramatically different goals for their 401k plan. The process of matching business goals to available plan options is called plan design. At first blush, 401k plan design can seem intimidating, but it doesn't need to be. Here is a six-step process for plan design.

Source: Employeefiduciary.com, April 2021

Is Participant Data a Plan Asset? Another Court Says No

A closely watched case was filed in Texas against Shell Oil Company and Fidelity, the plan's recordkeeper, alleging that Fidelity engaged in a prohibited transaction by profiting from the use of participant data through its cross-selling practices. A ruling for plaintiffs would have required the court to go further than other courts that have addressed this issue and make a threshold determination that participant data is a plan asset. Once that hurdle was cleared, plaintiffs would have had to show that Fidelity was a fiduciary violating the ERISA prohibition in Section 406 against benefiting from the use of plan assets. However, on March 30, the Shell court dismissed the claims against Fidelity for failure to state an ERISA claim.

Source: Cohenbuckmann.com, April 2021

Fee and Investment Litigation 2015-2020: Five Year Review of Developments and Best Practices to Mitigate Risk

In this two-part article, the authors provide a brief overview of 2020 trends and developments in fee and investment litigation and then explore more closely the key rulings and developments since 2015 and their impact on ERISA fee and investment litigation. This is part one of the article.

Source: Jacksonlewis.com, March 2021

Pandemic Reveals Demand for Virtual and Self-Serve 401k Education: New Schwab Data

With the multiemployer relief legislation cleared from Congress' docket, look for policymakers to turn to efforts to expand retirement plan coverage, ARA staff explained during a March 23 NAPA webcast. Will Hansen, Chief Government Affairs Officer at the American Retirement Association, and Andrew Remo, the organization's Director of Legislative Affairs, offered their take on the legislative outlook for the rest of the year, as well as what retirement policy provisions we may see in forthcoming legislation.

Source: Businesswire.com, March 2021

Expanding Coverage Likely Next Target for Lawmakers

With the multiemployer relief legislation cleared from Congress' docket, look for policymakers to turn to efforts to expand retirement plan coverage, ARA staff explained during a March 23 NAPA webcast. Will Hansen, Chief Government Affairs Officer at the American Retirement Association, and Andrew Remo, the organization's Director of Legislative Affairs, offered their take on the legislative outlook for the rest of the year, as well as what retirement policy provisions we may see in forthcoming legislation.

Source: Asppa.org, March 2021

The Impact(s) of Automatic Enrollment

A new study finds that automatic enrollment not only triples the participation rate of new hires, but that over time the vast majority increase their deferral rates. The report from researchers at Vanguard, found that among new hires, participation rates triple to 91% under automatic enrollment, compared with 28% under voluntary enrollment. Over time, 9 in 10 participants increase their deferral rates, either automatically or on their own, and more than three-quarters of participants remain exclusively invested in the default investment fund.

Source: Asppa.org, March 2021

Longstanding Savings Gaps by Race, Ethnicity Persist

A new EBRI analysis of data taken from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances underscores the persistently and perniciously unequal distribution of retirement savings in the United States.

Source: Plansponsor.com, March 2021*

Coronavirus-Related Distributions: Repayments and Reporting

Among the numerous changes that have taken place last year, the CARES Act added a level of complexity to an already complicated retirement universe. The addition of Coronavirus-related distributions provides participants with the ability to repay qualified distributions anytime over the next three years, following the implementation of the CARES Act. To understand the repayment and reporting of CRDs, it is vital to first understand some of the details regarding these distributions.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, March 2021

Settlement Struck in BlackRock 401k Suit

The settlement -- which will wind up covering some 17,000 participants in BlackRock's Retirement Savings Plan, 70% current participants and 30% former who no longer have an active account, according to the agreement -- comes in a case filed on April 5, 2017, by Charles Baird alleging, as do most of these excessive fee suits, that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties by, among other things (and with the involvement of investment consultant Mercer Investment Counseling) charging excessive hidden fees, picking investments that charged up to 871% more than required and costing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

Source: Napa-net.org, March 2021

Non-Enforcement Policy on Recent ESG and Proxy Voting Rules

In a press release issued in conjunction with the policy statement, the DOL stated that the rules may have had a "chilling effect" on plan fiduciaries' inclusion of ESG factors in their financial evaluation of plan investments and the exercise of shareholder rights, even when warranted. As a result, the DOL stated that intends "to conduct significantly more stakeholder outreach to determine how to craft rules that better recognize the important role that environmental, social and governance integration can play in the evaluation and management of plan investments, while continuing to uphold fundamental fiduciary obligations."

Source: Eyeonesg.com, March 2021

Navigating the Number Jumble: A 403b, 401k, and 457b Comparison

Understanding the nuances of employer-sponsored retirement plans can be daunting. This article explores the most significant distinctions of 403b, 401k, and 457b plans and their impact on the availability, benefits, and limitations of these plan types.

Source: Captrust.com, March 2021

A Technical Analysis of How "Small Amount" Cash-Outs Under 403b Plans Work

The minute differences between 403b plans and 401k plans are often inconvenient, at best, and sometimes they produce serious conundrums in plan administration which can be difficult to resolve. Prominent among these is the issue of "small amount" cash-outs from 403b plans.

Source: Businessofbenefits.com, March 2021

More Weak 401k Criticism Doesn't Stand Scrutiny

CBS News is the latest media outlet to take a swipe at 401ks by employing the extremely in-vogue income inequality argument. They conveniently ignore the steep rise in coverage and participation due to auto-enrollment, innovation in the form of target-date funds, and recent legislative success that primarily benefits smaller companies.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, March 2021

Eight Mistakes to Avoid When Administering a 401k Plan

Mistakes are common for plan sponsors with no financial experience who are administrating a 401k. Sponsors are the plan fiduciaries with plan documentation or protocols for following ERISA regulations. In some cases, penalties for errors are severe and irreversible, even if those errors were made in good faith. Here are some of the most common mistakes when operating 401k plans.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, March 2021

Investment Platform Provider Not Acting as a Fiduciary When Collecting Access Fees From Mutual Funds

The appellate court acknowledged that the provider, as a directed trustee, has some fiduciary duties. But the court also observed that fiduciary status is not an all-or-nothing proposition, and held that the provider's fiduciary duties do not extend to the access fees. According to the court, charging access fees does not translate to control over the compensation paid by participants due to a series of intervening and independent decisions outside of the provider's control.

Source: Thomsonreuters.com, March 2021

Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal of Fidelity "Infrastructure Fee" Lawsuit

The 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the dismissal of a class-action lawsuit against Fidelity over "infrastructure fees" charged to third-party mutual funds on the company's FundsNetwork investment platform. Fidelity describes the fee as compensation for the costs of maintaining the platform. But the plaintiffs alleged the fee is a "pay-to-play" charge for access to Fidelity's retirement plan investors that violates Fidelity's ERISA fiduciary duties. The threshold question in the case concerned whether Fidelity was a functional fiduciary when negotiating the fee. If not, no fiduciary breach could have occurred.

Source: Mercer.com, March 2021

Retirement Planning: What Women Do Right

Women, it seems, have the temperament and resolve to potentially manage their money more effectively than men, character traits that could help counter some of the significant financial headwinds against them as they seek to build a retirement nest egg. Indeed, amid the reality of lower earnings potential and longer life spans, studies reveal women may plan, earmark money for savings, and avoid costly knee-jerk reactions to stock market turbulence better than their male counterparts.

Source: Massmutual.com, March 2021

401k Investors Vulnerable to Cyber Hacks, Watchdog Warns

Firms that oversee retirement plans hold sensitive data like Social Security numbers. A cyber attack could lead to identity theft or monetary loss for savers. And the DOL hasn't done enough to protect 401k savings and data from cyber attacks, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Source: Cnbc.com, March 2021

Broker-Dealer Services to Plans: Impact of the DOL Fiduciary Advice Exemption

The PTE will likely affect the business of broker-dealers that regularly make investment recommendations to IRA owners, as well as retirement plans and their participants (including rollover recommendations). As a result of these changes, broker-dealers need to re-evaluate whether and when they (and their investment professionals) may be fiduciaries, and where they are fiduciaries, they need to develop compliant practices, policies, and procedures. Here are five key points of which brokerage firms should be aware.

Source: Brokerdealerlawblog.com, March 2021

COVID-19 Creating Huge Challenges for Higher-Ed Retirement Plans

As a result of the pandemic, 41% of higher education institutions have already reduced or stopped their employer matching contribution, and 87% of them believe COVID-19 will have a significant impact on their employees' retirement readiness. Those are among the key findings of an inaugural survey of retirement plans in public and private higher education conducted by Greenwald Research on behalf of Voya Financial.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, March 2021

82% Say Pandemic Has Negatively Impacted Retirement Plans

Roughly eight-in-10 Americans (82%) say the events of the past year have negatively impacted their retirement plans, and 55% of Americans said their retirement goals have been delayed by at least two years and one-third estimating it will take 2-3 years to get back on track, due to such factors as job loss or taking retirement withdrawals.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, March 2021

Advisor Designations and What They Mean

When looking for a financial advisor, you've probably noticed the "alphabet soup" of letter combinations that can follow an advisor's name. There are over 100 different financial advisor certifications, so it can be confusing to determine what these letters mean, and which advisor might be best for you based on these qualifications. Here is a breakdown of some of the most common financial designations and what they mean for you.

Source: Wealthspire.com, March 2021

Review of DOL Missing Participant Guidance

Up until earlier this year, it wasn't just the participants who were missing, the guidance was missing too. But on January 12, 2021, the DOL finally issued its long-awaited missing participant guidance. This article takes a quick tour of what was included.

Source: Plansponsor.com, March 2021

Collective Investment Funds and 403b Plans

Collective investment funds are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Are they eligible investment vehicles for 403b plans?

Source: Ntsa-net.org, March 2021

How Participants Weathered the Challenges of 2020

This John Hancock report looks at saving and investing behavior -- and progress toward retirement readiness -- over the course of an unprecedented year. Despite obstacles associated with the pandemic, participants held the line with their retirement savings.

Source: Johnhancock.com, March 2021

The Problems and Perils in Changing Your 401k TPA

When you change third-party administrators, it's like moving and it can be traumatic. This article is all about the TPA change which involves a conversion process that can spawn a whole host of problems for a plan sponsor.

Source: Jdsupra.com, March 2021

DOL's Non-Enforcement Policy for 401k ESG Investments

On March 10, 2021, the DOL announced in an official statement that it will not enforce its recently issued regulations on the investment of 401k plan investments based on nonpecuniary factors, such as environmental, social, and governance factors. The announcement represents an unusual, though not unexpected, change of course concerning the DOL's prior stated position on this issue. Generally stated, the DOL's March 10, 2021 announcement specifies that pending the publication of further guidance the DOL will not pursue enforcement actions against any plan fiduciary based on a failure to comply with the final regulations.

Source: Compliancedashboard.net, March 2021

How Retirement Readiness Fared in 2020; Ideas for Improving

Despite one of the most challenging periods in recent memory, a new study finds that DC plans continued to perform their critical role in preparing workers for retirement. Throughout 2020, the majority of the more than 1.1 million participants in over 1,000 John Hancock open architecture DC plans lost relatively little ground in their efforts to save for a secure retirement, the firm notes in the "State of the Participant 2021."

Source: Asppa.org, March 2021

Putting Technology at the Service of Retirement Plans

A proliferation of technological applications and the need to increase retirement plan participation and savings. Seems like a match made in heaven. A panel of experts recently discussed how that pairing is faring and how it can function better.

Source: Asppa.org, March 2021

2021 Best in Class 401k Plans

For the seventh year, PLANSPONSOR has awarded its Best in Class 401k Plan designation. The Best in Class 401k Plans were rated by way of a proprietary system that weighted usage/implementation of more than 30 criteria related to plan design, oversight/governance, and participant outcomes. Also, because plans must requalify every five years to maintain their Best in Class status, the 26 plans honored in 2016 were likewise reviewed.

Source: Plansponsor.com, March 2021*

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