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U.S. Labor Department proposes rules on investment advice exemption for 401(k) plans and IRAs
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The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) today announced publication of two proposed rules under the Pension Protection Act (PPA) to make investment advice more accessible for millions of Americans in 401(k) type plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). The proposed regulation and class exemption are to be published in the Aug.22, 2008 Federal Register.

"These proposals would give workers greater access to investment advice so that they are better equipped to manage and monitor their 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

The PPA amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by adding a new prohibited transaction exemption that allows greater flexibility for participants of 401(k) plans and IRAs to obtain investment advice. One of the ways in which investment advice may be given under the exemption is through the use of a computer model certified as unbiased; the other is through an adviser compensated on a "level-fee" basis. Several other requirements also must be satisfied, including disclosure of fees the adviser is to receive.

In December 2006, the Department of Labor (DOL) solicited public comments to determine what expertise and procedures may be needed to certify a computer model under the exemption, and to assist in developing a model form for the exemption's disclosure of adviser fees.

The proposed regulation provides general guidance on the exemption's requirements, including computer model certification, and includes a non-mandatory model form that advisers may use to satisfy the exemption's fee disclosure requirement. In addition, to further the availability of quality, professional investment advice, the department is proposing a class exemption that permits advisors to provide individualized advice to a worker after giving advice generated by use of a computer model.

Separately, the Department of Labor (DOL) also released its determination relating to the feasibility of using computer models for providing investment advice to participants of IRAs.


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