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Disclosures for Individual Brokerage Accounts

Posted By NIPA Headquarters, Wednesday, October 3, 2012

By Fred Reish, Partner/Chair, Fiduciary Services, ERISA Team at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

In DOL Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2012-02R, the Department of Labor explained the disclosures for individual brokerage accounts in participant-directed plans. I am concerned that many broker-dealers have not focused on these new "requirements". That is true for several reasons, including:

  • So much money and energy have been devoted to complying with the plan disclosure requirements, that is, the 408(b)(2) disclosures.
  • The 404a-5, or participant, disclosure requirements are imposed on plan sponsors, in their fiduciary capacity. Stating this slightly differently, the participant disclosures for brokerage accounts are not imposed on broker-dealers, but instead are placed on the shoulders of the plan sponsors. Since it is not a legal responsibility for broker-dealers, it has not received the same attention as the 408(b)(2) disclosures. However, as a practical matter, plan sponsors will turn to the broker-dealers and insist that they satisfy those disclosure requirements. That seems like a reasonable position, since the information is in the control of the broker-dealers.

The FAB provides detailed information about the requirements. To name a few, there is a requirement for a written description of the brokerage account; there must also be an explanation of any fees and expenses that are likely to be incurred in the brokerage account; and, participants must be provided with statements, at least quarterly, describing the fees and charges, both as dollar amounts and in a narrative form.

My sense is that few broker-dealers are prepared to offer assistance at that level of detail. However, I expect that will change now that the work on the 408(b)(2) disclosures is behind us.

Article provided by Fred Reish. Reish is a partner Drinker Biddle in Los Angeles. He works in the firm's Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Practice Group and is chair of the Financial Services ERISA Team. He has specialized in employee benefits law since 1973 and works with both private and public sector entities and their plans and fiduciaries; representation of plans, employers and fiduciaries before the governing agencies (e.g., the IRS and the DOL); consulting with banks, trust companies, insurance companies and mutual fund management companies on 401(k) investment products and issues related to plan investments; and representation of broker-dealers and registered investment advisers on issues related to fiduciary status and compliance, prohibited transactions and internal procedures.


 

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