A common misunderstanding between 408(b)(2) and 404(a)(5) is the nature of the requirements: 408(b)(2) requires the service provider’s contract with the plan’s fiduciary contain certain, specific terms. It does NOT require that those fees be disclosed to participants, nor does it require annual disclosure. It is simply a business matter between the fiduciary and the service provider. The only time a follow-up “disclosure” is ever required is if there is a material change in the contract’s terms (including the service fee), and then that disclosure is only required to be made to the plan fiduciary.
Continue Reading The Use, and Impact, of 408(b)(2) and 404(a)-5 Are Often Confused

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