Fiduciary Guide Helps Plan Sponsors Manage Responsibility
Fiduciary guide books are difficult to come by since a plan sponsor’s fiduciary responsibilities are diverse. If you’re confused about your fiduciary responsibilities, you’re not alone. However, there is help available. New York-based Cohen & Buckmann, P.C., a law firm that specializes in executive compensation, pensions and benefits law, has just released the 2019 version of its annual “Intelligent Fiduciary Guide.” This 2019 edition, is a compilation of Carol Buckmann’s most compelling recent articles and blog posts. In the firm’s words, the “Intelligent Fiduciary Guide” is a “useful and timely manual for plan sponsors, investment advisers and other fiduciaries.” Bonus: the guide is available online to download for free (email address required).
What is contained in the 2019 Intelligent Fiduciary Guide is quite diverse. There are 24 easy-to-read entries on topics such as retirement committee education, summary plan descriptions, fee lawsuits, how to hire an investment adviser, monitoring your plan’s qualified default investment alternatives (QDIAs), fiduciary liability insurance, and more.
The entry on hiring an investment adviser provides a checklist for guiding plan fiduciaries through that decision-making process, by asking and responding to the following:
- Will the adviser be a fiduciary?
- What are the adviser’s qualifications?
- How many ERISA clients do they have?
- How many ERISA plans have replaced the adviser and why?
- What is their disciplinary history?
- Have they been sued?
- Does the adviser have insurance?
- Will they provide education and advice to participants?
- Will the adviser attend committee meetings?
- Will the adviser provide written recommendations?
Finally, Ms. Buckmann – a frequent contributor to 401kTV – advises, make sure to get all of this in writing, and ensure all of the issues discussed herein are properly addressed. She advises: “… when looking to hire an investment adviser, sending out an RFP should be the second step. Your first step should always be, having a conversation with your trusted ERISA counsel.”
Another entry lists 10 Litigation Lessons for 401(k) and 403(b) Fiduciaries and how to apply them in 2019. Those lessons include:
- Being able to demonstrate you have a prudent process in place for plan decision-making
- Putting everything in writing
- Knowing and reviewing your options
- Understanding target date funds
- Benchmarking plan fees
- Retaining experts to help you
- Consulting outside counsel when needed
- Holding regular, consistent committee meetings
- Reviewing your providers regularly
- Scheduling regular RFPs
It is important to keep all of these key lessons in mind, and ensure that you are fulfilling your fiduciary responsibilities with respect to your plan and participants vis a vis every aspect of decision-making, from your process for doing so to choosing and reviewing providers and plan fees. Every aspect of plan management does matter, and it’s important for fiduciaries to get it right. The “Intelligent Fiduciary Guide” can help.
To download your copy of the 2019 version of the “Intelligent Fiduciary Guide,” click here. And be sure to check out Carol Buckmann’s popular monthly “Ask the Lawyer” column on 401kTV. (Read more about Carol Buckmann here.)
As a retirement plan sponsor and fiduciary, you want to do what’s best for your plan and participants. Acting in your participants’ best interest is the law — it’s required by ERISA, the set of regulations that governs retirement plans.