Industry & Regulatory News

ESG Final Rule Published in Federal Register

The Department of Labor’s final rule titled Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights, which was previously announced, has been published in the Federal Register. Today’s publication establishes a January 30, 2023, effective date. Certain provisions related to proxy voting, however, will not be applicable until December 1, 2023.

December 01 2022

Industry & Regulatory News

DOL Releases ESG Final Rule

The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced the release of a final rule to remove barriers in considering environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in plan investments. 

The DOL emphasizes in the executive summary that the final rule does not change two longstanding principles. First, the final rule retains the core principle that the duties of prudence and loyalty require ERISA plan fiduciaries to focus on relevant risk-return factors and not subordinate the interests of participants and beneficiaries to objectives unrelated to the provision of benefits under the plan. Second, the fiduciary duty to manage plan assets that are shares of stock includes the management of shareholder rights relative to those shares, including the right to vote proxies. The final rule makes several other changes that are highlighted in the summary.

  • Amends the current regulation to delete the “pecuniary/non-pecuniary” terminology based on concerns that the terminology causes confusion and a chilling effect to financially beneficial choices.
  • Confirms that a fiduciary may include as part of a risk and return analysis the economic effects of ESG on a particular investment determination or course of action.
  • Amends the current regulation to remove the stricter rules for QDIAs, such that, under the final rule, the same standards apply to QDIAs as to investments in general.
  • Amends the current regulation’s “tiebreaker” test to provide that when a fiduciary concludes prudently that competing investments, or competing investment courses of action, equally serve the financial interests of the plan over the appropriate time horizon—the fiduciary is not prohibited from selecting the investment or investment course of action based on collateral benefits other than investment returns.
  • Adds a new provision clarifying that fiduciaries do not violate their duty of loyalty solely because they take participants’ preferences into account when constructing a menu of prudent investment options for participant-directed individual account plans.
  • Eliminates the statement in paragraph (e)(2)(ii) of the current regulation that “the fiduciary duty to manage shareholder rights appurtenant to shares of stock does not require the voting of every proxy or the exercise of every shareholder right”, as it may be misread as suggesting that plan fiduciaries should be indifferent to the exercise of their rights as shareholders, even if the cost is minimal.
  • Removes two “safe harbor” examples for proxy voting policies permissible under paragraphs (e)(3)(i)(A) and (B) of the current regulation. The DOL believed that these examples encouraged abstention as the normal course and failed to recognize the importance that prudent management of shareholder rights can have in enhancing the value of plan assets or protecting plan assets from risk.
  • Modifies requirements in order to more generally cover monitoring obligations, and address concerns that could be read as requiring obligations above and beyond the statutory duties of prudence and loyalty that generally apply to monitoring the work of service provider.
  • Amends to eliminate from paragraph (e)(2)(ii)(E) of the current regulation a specific requirement on maintaining records on proxy voting activities and other exercises of shareholder rights, due to perception of treating proxy voting and other exercises of shareholder rights as carrying a greater fiduciary obligation than other fiduciary activities.

The final rule is effective 60 days after publication in the federal register.

November 22 2022

Industry & Regulatory News

Additional Form 5500 Guidance Under SECURE Act at OMB

The Office of Management and Budget has received a final rule from the Department of Labor titled “Implement SECURE Act and Related Revisions to Employee Benefit Plan Annual Reporting on the Form 5500.”

According to a description of the rule, it is likely to include guidance on the implementation of group of plans reporting pursuant to Section 202 of the SECURE Act. The DOL released certain form revisions earlier in the year but indicated that it was evaluating public comments on elements of the September 2021 proposal related to 1) DCG reporting under the SECURE Act and related audit issues, 2) Schedule MEP reporting requirements, 3) financial improvements to the Schedule H, 4) changes in participant counts related to plan audit requirements, 5) reporting for multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs) that file Form M-1, and 6) questions on pension plan compliance.

November 22 2022

Industry & Regulatory News

DOL Releases Updated VFCP

The Department of Labor (DOL) has released a proposed amendment to its Voluntary Fiduciary Protection Program (VFCP), along with a proposed amendment to Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 2002-51, to permit certain transactions identified in the VFCP transaction exemption.

The VFCP allows plan officials to avoid potential civil enforcement actions and civil penalties under ERISA if eligible transactions are voluntarily corrected in a manner that meets the program’s requirements. Correction of these transactions under the current Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program requires plan officials to submit an application to EBSA for review and approval. According to a DOL press release, EBSA’s proposed changes will do the following:

  • Clarify some existing transactions that are eligible for correction under the program.
  • Expand the scope of other transactions currently eligible for correction and simplify administrative or procedural requirements under the program.
  • Amend the associated prohibited transaction class exemption, known as PTE 2002-51.

Most notable among the proposed changes is the addition of a self-correction component. This feature will enable employers and other plan officials to notify EBSA electronically that they have self-corrected certain failures to send participant contributions and loan repayments to pension plans on time. The proposed self-correction component can be used only if the following conditions are met:

  • Participant contributions or loan repayments to the plan must be remitted no more than 180 calendar days from the date of withholding or receipt.
  • Lost earnings must not exceed $1,000 calculated from date of withholding or receipt.
  • The plan or self-corrector must not be under investigation as defined in the program.
  • Self-correctors must use the program’s online calculator to calculate lost earnings and an online web tool to complete and file the self-correction component notice. Self-correctors must also complete and retain the self-correction retention record checklist.


Comments on the proposed changes can be made within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register. The proposals will be reviewed, and additional details provided.

November 21 2022

Industry & Regulatory News

DOL ESG Final Rule Has Left OMB

A final rule titled Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights submitted by the Department of Labor has left the Office of Management and Budget.

The final rule is pursuant in part to Executive Order 14030, which directed the Secretary of Labor to suspend, revise or rescind previous guidance on this matter promulgated during the Trump administration. A proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on October 14, 2021.

November 21 2022

Industry & Regulatory News

Department of Labor Changes “Employee vs. Contractor” Rule

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has once again released guidance on the definition of “employee.” This October 2022 guidance, in the form of proposed regulations, applies primarily to determinations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), but may help in other contexts, such as in determining whether a worker should be covered by a retirement or health plan. Although the new rules are not radically different from previous regulations, there are some important changes.

November 17 2022

Industry & Regulatory News

PBGC Updates Maximum Guarantee Table For 2023

The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) has updated its table titled “Present Value of PBGC Maximum Guarantee” to reflect applicable values for distributions with annuity starting dates during calendar year 2023. The maximum guarantee is expressed as a dollar ceiling on the amount of the monthly benefit that may be paid to a plan participant (in the form of a life annuity beginning at age 65) by the PBGC. The maximum guarantee, which increases each year, is adjusted for benefits commencing at ages other than age 65 in order to make the maximum guarantee equivalent in value regardless of the age at which a participant starts receiving benefits from the PBGC.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires that when the “adjusted funding target attainment percentage” (AFTAP) for a plan is at least 60 percent but less than 80 percent, the plan may not make a distribution in excess of the lesser of

  • 50 percent of the amount of the payment that would have been paid if the restriction did not apply, or
  • the present value, determined under guidance approved by the PBGC, of the maximum guarantee with respect to the participant under ERISA Section 4022.

The PBGC table is useful in determining the maximum payment for this purpose.

November 03 2022

Industry & Regulatory News

Federal Prime Interest Rate Increased to 7 Percent

Effective November 2, 2022, the federal prime interest rate increased from 6.25 percent to 7 percent. The prime interest rate is largely determined by the federal funds rate, as set by the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). As Department of Labor regulations require a retirement plan loan interest rate to be comparable to interest rates charged by entities that are in the business of lending money in similar circumstances, plan sponsors typically use a benchmark such as the prime rate to set the interest rate on plan loans.

The next FOMC meeting is scheduled for December 14, 2022.

November 03 2022

Industry & Regulatory News

DOL’s Proposed Restated Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program has left OMB

A Department of Labor proposed rule restating the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP) has left the Federal Office of Management and Budget—suggesting that official release may come soon.

The VFCP is a voluntary enforcement program that allows plan officials to identify and correct certain transactions, such as delinquent participant contributions, sales and exchanges, improper loans, and improper plan expenses. The VFCP was last updated in 2006.

November 01 2022

Industry & Regulatory News

Deadline Extended for Comments on DOL Proposal Updating Employee Classification Under FLSA

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has extended the deadline to comment on its proposed rule titled Employee or Independent Contractor Classification Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The original deadline to comment was November 28, and is now extended to December 13. Initial highlights of the proposal were announced upon its release.

October 25 2022