Come 2012, transparency may take on a new meaning regarding fees retirement plan providers will be required to share.
The Department of Labor recently issued interim final regulations requiring retirement plan service providers to furnish additional information to plan sponsors relating to their services and fees. As employers and plan sponsors, CUs must comply by Jan. 1, 2012 by contacting their service providers to get disclosures in writing. Failure to comply could result in penalties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
The regs apply to employers with defined benefit and defined contribution plans and ERISA-covered 403(b) plans. They cover new contracts with plan sponsors, as well as any in existence on the effective date.
Dave Fowler, lead attorney for CUNA Mutual Group’s retirement plan services, said the DOL is requiring much more detailed disclosures so that everyone involved is on the same page.
"There are so many different layers in the retirement administration world," Fowler said. "Everyone gets paid something. The labor department is trying to level the playing field and make sure everyone is subject to the same areas."
Many of the interim disclosures involve compensation. For instance, a description of any compensation to be paid in connection with the termination of the contract or arrangement and how any refunds of prepaid amounts will be calculated would be required.
If the service provider, affiliate or subcontractor is providing record-keeping services, the disclosure must identify the amounts paid just for these services. In those cases where the service provider does not charge for record-keeping services, or if the compensation is offset or rebated based on other compensation received by the service provider, affiliate or subcontractor, there must be disclosure of a good faith estimate of the cost to the plan of the recordkeeping services.
The manner in which the compensation is to be received such as being billed or deducted from plan accounts or investments is another disclosure. The DOL is also calling for a description of any compensation that will be charged against the investment in connection with a purchase or sale of things such as sales loads, redemption fees, or surrender charges.
While the regulations do not specify any deadline to have the disclosures in place, Fowler said they must be provided to the plan fiduciary reasonably in advance of the date the contract is entered into, If there is a change in the information that is provided in the initial disclosure, the service provider must inform the plan fiduciary as soon as practicable, but no later than 60 days after the date the service provider knows of the change.
In the upcoming months CUNA Mutual will be reviewing its service agreements with existing customers and its proposals for new customers to determine what changes need to be made to comply with the new rules, Fowler said.
"These final regulations are interim, which means that the DOL is requesting public comments and could make some modifications to these rules," Fowler said.
Credit unions should determine which of their service providers will need to furnish disclosures, and what disclosures will be required from each provider. For existing contracts, the plan fiduciary must receive the required disclosures by Jan. 1, 2012, Fowler noted. If the plan sponsor is working with an investment adviser to select and monitor investment funds, the adviser should provide disclosures about its services and fees and disclose its status as a fiduciary and registered investment adviser.
The disclosures would also impact those considering changing third-party administrators after Jan. 1, 2012.
Last fall, the DOL published final regulations imposing new participant disclosure requirements for participant-directed individual account retirement plans. These regs, which are effective for plan years beginning on or after Nov. 1, 2011, overlap with the disclosures that service providers must furnish under these interim disclosures.