Fiduciary Comprehension: Demonstrated By Asking The Right Questions (or not)
DOL tries to clarify QDIA regs on annuities in TDFs
It can be argued that, sometimes, one can determine how well something is understood by the type of question asked about the subject.
In this article, it is clear that TIAA was concerned with their current use of annuities within their Target Date Fund product as a Default Investment Option.
This was the DOL’s response….
In the spirit of that effort, the letter says that “nothing in the existing QDIA rules stands in the way of a plan fiduciary making a determination that it would be prudent to default participants into a TDF featuring an annuity.”
The letter notes that “prudence requires plan fiduciaries to engage in an “objective, thorough and analytical process” when selecting a TDF with an annuity as a default investment in a 401(k) plan.”
“The cost of the annuity, the specifics of the liquidity limitations of a given annuity, and the demographics of participants in the plan must be considered by prudent fiduciaries.”
“Sponsors must consider the extra communication efforts necessary to adequately educate participants on the liquidity limitations of annuities. Ultimately, whether a TDF with an annuity feature qualifies as a QDIA depends “on the facts and circumstances” of a specific plan.”
The DOL is, once again, more concerned with the visible behaviors of the fiduciary as demonstrated through an “objective, thorough, and analytic process” while considering the “demographics of the participants and “considering extra communication efforts (disclosure) necessary to adequately educate participants.”
Simply, the DOL is stating…”Provide evidence that the use of annuities in your Target Date Funds is in the participant’s best interest.”
Did the entity making the inquiry understand the spirit of the regulation? Did the regulator really provide any additional guidance?