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DOL Extends Fiduciary Rule Transition Period and Applicability Dates; Releases Additional FAQs

The DOL disclosed in a filing submitted in a lawsuit that it was seeking to extend the transition period and delay the applicability dates from January 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019 for the Best Interest Contract Exemption and other key exemptions from the Fiduciary Rule, according to news reports. The DOL wrote that it has submitted the proposed amendments to the three principal transaction exemptions to the Office of Management and Budget. The DOL also recently addressed questions on the Fiduciary Rule as the industry grapples with uncertainty during the rule’s transition period. The first question discussed whether certain service providers to ERISA pension plans needed to update their disclosures to reflect their fiduciary status. The DOL responded generally that only in a few circumstances will such service providers need to update their disclosures, as discussed in detail by lawyers from Stradley Ronon. The other questions covered whether recommendations to plan participants and IRA owners to contribute to or increase contributions to a plan or IRA constitute fiduciary investment advice and whether recommendations to employers and other plan fiduciaries on plan design changes intended to increase plan participation and contribution rates constitute fiduciary investment advice. The DOL responded that the recommendations generally would not constitute investment advice. Meanwhile, industry groups are calling on the DOL to reexamine its rulemaking and for increased SEC involvement in the rulemaking process.