American Benefits Council
Benefits Byte


May 13, 2015

The Benefits Byte is the American Benefits Council’s regular e-mail and online newsletter for members only, providing timely reports on legislative, regulatory and judicial developments, along with updates on the Council’s activities in support of employer-sponsored benefit plans.

The Benefits Byte is published by the American Benefits Council, based on staff reports and edited by Jason Hammersla, Council director of communications. Contact information for Council staff related to specific topics can be found at the end of each story.

Click here to read past issues on the Benefits Byte Archive page.

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Senators Urge DOL to Extend Comment Period for Fiduciary Definition Proposal

In a May 12 letter, 36 Republican senators asked the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to extend the comment deadline for its proposed regulations defining the term “fiduciary” with respect to employee benefit plan investment advice.

The proposed regulations, issued on April 14 along with a fact sheet, a series of Frequently Asked Questions and a series of proposed prohibited transaction exemptions, broadly updates the definition of fiduciary investment advice by extending fiduciary status to a wider array of advice relationships than existing rules. The proposal provides for a comment period of 75 days (starting with the formal publication of the proposal on April 20), making the due date July 6. (See the April 14 Benefits Byte for a brief summary of the proposal.)

The Council similarly urged the DOL and its Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) to extend the comment deadline in a May 5 letter. The letter stated that the Council “appreciates the importance of this project and wants to ensure that our membership has adequate time to fully analyze the impact of the proposed guidance and provide the information and input the Department has asked for in the reproposal.” (See the May 5 Benefits Byte.)

The senators’ letter requests that the comment period be extended to 120 days, noting that when an earlier version of the rule was first proposed in October 2010, it was not only significantly shorter but also provided 90 days for review and comments (see the October 21, 2010, Benefits Byte). The Council letter also observed this point, noting that “the new package is significantly longer and more complex than the original proposal and the 2010 proposal had a longer comment period.”

The Council is already undertaking a thorough review of the proposal itself, as well as the prohibited transaction exemptions and the economic analysis being used to support the issuance of new rules. A Benefits Briefing webinar is scheduled for June 11 at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the proposed rule and its impact on large and small employers, as well as the potential practical effects including potential litigation issues. Click here to register.

It is still uncertain whether EBSA will grant an extension. EBSA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor, Phyllis Borzi, was recently quoted as saying that the agency will likely hold “several days of public hearings” in the summer, followed by publication of the hearing transcript, followed by an additional comment period.” However, as the senators’ letter states, bipartisan support for an extension is growing and may affect EBSA’s decision.

For more information on DOL’s fiduciary definition project, or to provide input for a Council comment letter, contact Jan Jacobson, senior counsel, retirement policy, or Diann Howland, vice president, legislative affairs, at (202) 289-6700.

A Bit About Your Benefits: Survey Reminder

The Council needs your help with a critically important project specifically designed to improve the value of your membership. On April 24, we sent you a brief survey that will help us learn how best to serve you and your colleagues. We are conducting this as part of a larger effort to gauge the value of various resources we provide and to consider possible new services we could unveil in the future.

You should have received an invitation to complete the survey with a customized link. If you began the survey but did not complete it, simply return to the email, click the link and you will automatically return to where you were in the survey.

The survey takes fewer than ten minutes. In appreciation of your feedback and because we know your time is valuable, everyone who completes the questionnaire will be entered into a drawing for one of five $100 Amazon gift cards. Responses can be made until Friday, May 15.

If you have questions or did not receive an invitation to participate, please contact Deanna Johnson, director, membership, or Jessica Chirico, communications assistant. Both can be reached at (202) 289-6700.

The American Benefits Council is the national trade association for companies concerned about federal legislation and regulations affecting all aspects of the employee benefits system. The Council's members represent the entire spectrum of the private employee benefits community and either sponsor directly or administer retirement and health plans covering more than 100 million Americans.

Notice: the information contained herein is general in nature. It is not, and should not be construed as, accounting, consulting, legal or tax advice or opinion provided by the American Benefits Council or any of its employees. As required by the IRS, we inform you that any information contained herein was not intended or written to be used or referred to, and cannot be used or referred to (i) for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein (and any attachment).