Three for Thursday

Well, some of you may recall that when I joined Twitter, I originally did it so that I would have an additional outlet to point out and comment on the various interesting articles and commentaries that cross my desk.  Twitter, though, turned out to be a two way street, with it driving interesting articles onto my desk at a faster rate than I could use Twitter to push other interesting articles off my desk and out to a wider audience.  Not only that, but in what might reflect more on my personality than it does on Twitter, I have found that I have trouble limiting myself to 140 characters when it comes to talking about many of the articles that catch my eye.

This week was much like others in that respect, with at least three very interesting items landing on my desk (one directly from my Twitter timeline) that I wanted to both pass along and to comment on in more than 140 keystrokes.  So I thought I would steal a heading from FM radio (Three for Thursday, no commercial interruptions, somehow keeps running through my head today) and discuss three interesting items that I think are worth your time.

The first is Mark Firman of Canada’s (how’s that for provincialism?  He’s actually of Toronto, as we New Englanders recognize that Canada, a near neighbor, is in fact a diverse place) excellent article on whether socially conscious investing can be squared with a fiduciary’s obligation to act in the best interest of plan participants.  It’s a well-written and stylish piece, on what in the hands of a less skilled writer court be a dry topic.  More than that, though, in this era of tobacco stocks, environmental risks and consumer boycotts, it’s a timely take on an important issue.

The second is Greg Daugherty’s excellent piece on the Employee Benefits Law Report concerning court decisions finding service providers to plans to, in one case, not be a fiduciary under ERISA and, in another case, to be a fiduciary under ERISA.  Greg’s post highlights a key issue, which is understanding why the outcome was different in each case, which in this instance, had to do with the fact that one of the service providers could alter its compensation level by decisions that it could make with regard to the plan.  The court found this to be enough to render it a fiduciary under ERISA.  Plan sponsors and participants often assume that service providers are fiduciaries, but they often are not, and it’s important to understand when they are and when they are not fiduciaries.

The third is George Chimento’s excellent piece on further operational complications of the ACA for employers, particularly small employers.  George’s article illustrates an important aspect of the ACA for employers: you can’t go it alone.  Operational and compliance issues raised by the ACA are such that employers have to have competent, trusted experts they can rely on when it comes to issues raised by the ACA.