Multiple Employer Plans

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

The DOL’s Advisory Opinion process is a helpful one, as it provides a manner in which to explore and test the development of innovative programs which are necessary for the retirement system to properly adapt and change.

 One of the Advisory Opinions issued today is a case in point. A continuing challenge in the marketplace

As you can imagine, I have been asked by a number of folks of my thoughts related to the statements by the DOL in their brief for removal of the fiduciaries in the Hutcheson matter. Besides the observation that this sort of mischief could have (and does happen) regardless of the existence of a MEP,

 I have written often of the large impact of the small, the concept of  "minimum necessary change" to accomplish what needs to be done, and have noted a number of regulatory instances where this has been-and not-accomplished.

This whole idea of small rules meaning much also has relevance in the Multiple Employer Plan world, in