DOL to release conflict of interest FAQs

Before this White House administration comes to a close, employers and retirement plan sponsors can expect to see a few more lingering projects come out of the Department of Labor.

The DOL is planning to release the first of three sets of answers to frequently asked questions about its fiduciary rule “very soon,” Phyllis Borzi, assistant secretary of labor at the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, said Tuesday at ASPPA’s 2016 annual conference.

This first set of FAQs will focus on some of the questions that have been raised in connection with the exemptions. She said the FAQs will be helpful, but not encyclopedic. “We’re not going to be able to answer every question,” she noted, adding that the other two sets of FAQs were slated to be out by the end of the year, with the second focusing on definitional questions of the rule itself.

“We’ve tried to prioritize the questions to answer what people want most,” she said.

In addition to clearing up some of the confusion that plan sponsors have on the fiduciary rule, Borzi noted a number of additional items employers should keep on their radars.

One such pilot program currently taking place in the DOL’s Philadelphia office will eventually start a major push to get pension plans to work harder at finding lost beneficiaries.

She said the office had found an “alarming” number of terminated vested plan participants who have not claimed their benefits, which total close to a billion dollars. Some beneficiaries, she said, took a mere 10 to 15 minutes to find.

“It’s kind of disturbing when you can go on simple internet search engines to locate these people, Borzi said. “A lot of these people have some large unclaimed benefits.”

She says employers and plan sponsors can expect the DOL to release some of the Philadelphia office’s best practices in the near future.

Borzi closed by noting a few other issues she hopes to clear up before the current administration ends, including finalizing disability claims procedures regulations and clarifying proposed regulation on the state auto IRA, including answering questions as to whether political subdivisions, such as New York City or Seattle, can also offer these programs.

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