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Friday, February 26, 2010

Joe Biden to Unveil 401k Advice Rules

News summary by MFWire's editors

Fundsters awaiting the final investment advice regulations for 401(k)s are about to get their answers from someone who's a bit above the regulators. On Friday morning at 10am, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will unveil the new regs created by the Department of Labor [DoL]) at the White House as part of the annual report of the "Middle Class Task Force."

The Associated Press, Fox News, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal all report briefly on the planned unveiling. According to WSJ, the DoL's proposal will open for public comment until May 5, when the regulatory agency will issue a new rule.

For mutual fund industry insiders working in the 401(k) world, these advice regs have been a long time coming (see our sister publication, The 401kWire, for more information). The regs would cover how to give advice to individual 401(k) participants and IRA account holders. The broad stroke allowing for such advice (and forcing the DoL to come up with these rules) was included in the Pension Protection Act of 2006, and the DoL under President George W. Bush finally issued the appropriate regs to flesh the rule out just as Barack Obama took the reins in January 2009.

Obama's DoL put the regs on hold several times, worrying about permitting potential conflicts of interest involving plan service providers offering advice, too, Then in fall 2009, the DoL finally yanked the old proposal completely and vowed to start over again from scratch. And as recently as February 2, Assistant Secretary of Labor Phyllis Borzi (head of the Employee Benefits Security Administration that regulates retirement plans) , confirmed that the new proposal would be out by the end of February.

Those presenting the advice regs (and other recommendations from the Middle Class Task Force) to both Obama and the media include: Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris; Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council; Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget; Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors; and Lawrence (Larry) Summers, director of the National Economic Council 

Edited by: Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

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