How do you audit a 403(b) in-kind distribution? There is no financial transaction, no cash changes hands, there is no change in investments. It really is only a nominal change in the records of the insurer. Yet, somehow, GAAP requires that the “transaction” be verified. There is no answer, yet, to this question, which means the industries (that is, auditors, insurers, and lawyers) will be pressed for finding a standardized approach for bringing audit certainty to this process. It even becomes a bigger issue than 403(b)s: QLACs and other distributed annuity contracts are all able to be distributed as “in-kind” distributions from 401(a) plans as well, and there is no acceptable “recordkeeping” method to audit.
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With regard to the DOL’s fiduciary proposed regulations, There is much to like in the new rules; some troubling things; and, perhaps, a mistake or two which will be all flushed out in the coming months. There are a couple of technical points which are worthwhile sharing because they represent what we can expect of the “unexpected” as we work through the changes’ impact. These include the impact on lifetime income , and the application of the PT rules on the purchase of annuities-including QLACs.
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A more complete and up to date description of how lifetime income can work in a DC plan is in order. Evan Giller (newly Of Counsel with Boutwell and Faye) and I put together the attached piece entitled “Regulatory and Fiduciary Framework for Providing Lifetime Income from Defined Contribution Plans.” It is originally appearing in the New York University Review of Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation – 2013. Published by LexisNexis Matthew Bender. Copyright 2013 New York University.” In the paper, we’ve drawn upon our long experience with retirement plan annuities, mixing it well with all of these new developments.
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Traditional annuities are inflexible. Period. You get the monthly benefit you pay for. They provide a very valuable benefit which should be part of anyone’s retirement planning, but this inflexibility can be scary, as it takes away from the participant the ability to address unexpected contingencies. This fear comes from the second point: the funds used to buy the traditional annuity are gone for good. Other than payments made under a survivor annuity, the traditional annuity doesn’t give the participant any access to funds to pay for contingencies, nor does it typically pay a death benefit. So what’s a fiduciary to do?
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It has been a couple of weeks since we’ve last posted a blog, and with good reason. Between Evan, Monica and I, this two month span has us doing some 15 presentations and articles, whie keeping up with clients (and a couple of us squeezing in some overdue vacation time!).  Monica is speaking this week

It is back to the future, in an odd sort of way. There is growing trade press coverage on the interests of 401(k) plans and plan participants on turning a portion of participants’ account balances into a "defined benefit-like" guaranteed income stream. Follow, for example, this link to Plan Advisor.com.

There are really two ways