On April 6, 2016, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued its final rule expanding the “investment advice fiduciary” definition under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). The rule, which is effective April 10, 2017, has already had significant impact on the wealth management business and advisers should be particularly aware of changes to recruitment and compensation.
The rule modifies the Best Interest Contract Exemption (“BIC”), under which the DOL permits financial advisers and their firms to engage in otherwise prohibited transactions. When the rule was issued last year, many firms were concerned that the revised BIC would create unacceptable liability risk on commission-based retirement accounts and prohibit back-end performance-based incentives altogether. The DOL has now confirmed that the back-end incentives, such as bonuses for meeting asset or sales targets, will no longer be exempted under the BIC.
On October 27, the Department issued a FAQ regarding the new rule. Question 12 addressed recruitment incentives: