I spoke last week at the New England Employee Benefits Council on the Department of Labor’s efforts to redefine the word fiduciary by regulation, so as to capture within that rubric more of the vendors, providers and advisors involved in the retirement industry. Overall, my sense is the regulatory effort is over-expansive, and risks divorcing the regulatory definition of fiduciary from the statutory provision that creates fiduciary status under ERISA. My comments when I spoke ran in this direction. I also have an article in for publication in the Journal of Pension Benefits to the same effect.
That said, though, there are clear problems that the regulatory effort is directed at, and it is fair to say that, at a minimum, the Department’s heart is in the right place, as this interview with Phyllis Borzi makes clear. It is important to remember both of those things, even in criticizing particular redrafts of the relevant regulations. I mention this now partly because the issue is not going away, and the Department of Labor will be coming back later this year with a new, revised proposed rewrite of the regulatory definition of fiduciary, as explained here.