The DOL continues with its sensitivity to the challenges created for 403(b) plan sponsors in the transition to an employer accountable world. In today’s release of the final 408(b)(2) regs, the DOL provided tremendously needed relief for 403(b)plans. The language from the preamble speaks for itself:

The Department was persuaded by commenters on the interim final

Freedom and liberty are not merely themes sounded by politicians in political campaigns, or in rousing marches by military bands (though I am personally  particularly fond of them!), nor are they ideas which you will typically see being discussed in a piece about retirement issues. But they are themes woven into the fabric of our

Important Update. On June 21, IRS announced the extension of the 8955-SSA deadline to January 17, 2011, for which no Form 58 extension will need to be filed. The announcement is here

The challenges continue for 403(b) plans, as the IRS and DOL continue to implement their plan level rules in the 403(b) space.

I would think that it is a basic law of physics that, whenever you attempt to apply a number of different and complicated principles to a single object, that the consequences on that object will be hard to predict, or even readily ascertained.

So it is with a potential impact 408(b)(2) may have on many

Working through the technical terms of 408(b)(2) is not much different than putting together a picture puzzle. There are a lot of pieces which fit together in some very precise ways. But, in the end, the disclosures which are required are pretty straightforward and-even given the work needed to describe certain ”wrapped” services and estimating their

The DOL’s newly delayed 408(b)(2) regs are particularly striking in that they demonstrate a growing sophistication, and efficiency, on the part of the EBSA staff in its approach to retirement plan financial products and services. The regs are short, by almost any measure of federal regulations, yet they are packed with meaningful rules which will apply in different ways to different product and services.  

The marketplace is a fast moving one, with complex instruments and services being used in new and unusual ways. Keeping up with this whirlwind is a challenge for the industry and employers, let alone a government regulatory agency which must somehow craft rules which have broad application to ever-shifting, complex and unanticipated circumstances.  Though not always successful, the DOL is approaching its learning curves impressively-including the way in which continues to seek to know and understand what it does not.

A prime example of this is the manner in which the 408b2 rules apply to variable investment accounts within the annuity contracts used to fund 403(b), 401(k) and other 401(a) plans. What is fascinating is that the word "annuity" only shows up with regard to IRAs;  the words "individual," "group," "variable," "fixed," "registered," or "non-registered"-all of which are descriptors of a variety of different sorts of annuity contracts- never show up; and the word "insurance" only appears once. Yet, it provides clear guidance on how these investment products are to be regulated. 

Lets take a quick look at the way the rules apply differently to registered variable annuity separate accounts (lets call these "Type 1" for purposes of this blog) typically used in the 403(b) market, and the way they apply to non-registered variable annuity separate accounts (which I’ll call "Type 2") typically used in 401(k) plans.

This, by the way, is important for plan sponsors to know because they have to sort out whether they are receiving the disclosures they need, and report it to the DOL if they are not.

Continue Reading Annuity Investment Accounts and 408(b)2