Multiple Employer Plans

This legislation could fundamentally change the MEP landscape, and even lessen the contention over state run MEPs. It would do this by opening the market for the advantageously pooling of the resources of small employers which would have otherwise been reserved to the State programs. It also could minimize any need for new federal MEP legislation, and promote models which are a lot less risky than the MEP.
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The complex nature of handling 403(b) plans-and, in particular, the unique manner in which the fiduciary rules apply to them-make these plans uniquely suited to customized fiduciary services. It is well beyond the skill set of many 501(c)(3) organizations to make sense of their often complicated 403(b) programs, and to put them into some kind of sensical order. This must be done all the while applying a number of rules intended for the 401(k) market (with their centralized recordkeeping systems) in a plan which may have significant assets held by multiple vendors under a variety of contracts with differing terms.
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A more effective alternative at providing scale than the MEP platform, and one which really is made possible by technology, is what the DOL describes in its MEP IB as the “Prototype Approach,” versions of which are apparently being considered by several states. It provides those small plans the buying power and access to expertise which are at the heart of MEPs, doing so without that platform’s inherent difficulties.

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MEPs are very valuable tools for the right circumstances, and there can be some PEOs which do fit within the DOL’s guidelines. Even better, non-MEP aggregation arrangements are a valuable alternative to MEPs. It is risky behavior, however, to attempt to manufacture an employment bond that doesn’t really exist-especially when there are viable alternatives.
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There is a serious, and important, debate occurring whether, and to what extent, should there be MEP reform following the DOL’s restrictive advisory opinion on the matter in 2012.  There appears to be bi-partisan support for the changes proposed in Senator Hatch’s SAFE Act, which makes wholesale changes to  the current MEP rules, and will

In an almost stealth-like way, innovation is creeping into the marketplace and creating ways to address critical retirement issues, even without an incubator. Though these programs can do little to address what I view as the basic retirement inadequacy issue-that is, employers are generally moving away from the traditional notion of building adequate retirement programs into their employment models-they are making progress toward making the best of what we’ve got.
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Multiple Employer Plans continue to be an issue for not only PEOs, but for a number of organizations which has successfully used the MEP method in the past to provide “scale” which is otherwise unavailable in the smaller end of the 401(k) marketplace.The DOL Advisory Opinion 2012-04 has caused us to take a closer look at how to otherwise achieve this scale. Scale in investments and services, we find, is still possible without using MEP, and in ways which tend to have a lower risk profile for both the MEP sponsor and participating employers.
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The dust has begun to settle around the DOL’s Advisory Opinion, 2012-4, and a number of different voices have spoken about what the opinion says, and what it doesn’t say. At this point, it may be useful to to put the letter in some context.

The clarity it brings is, in fact, very helpful. What